From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : SuperCam
Mains level : Study of life on Mars
In its mission to Mars this summer, NASA is sending a new laser-toting robot called SuperCam as one of seven instruments aboard the Mars 2020 rover.
- Called SuperCam, the robot is used for studying mineralogy and chemistry from up to about 7 metres away.
- It might help scientists find signs of fossilized microbial life on Mars.
- SuperCam packs what would typically require several sizable pieces of equipment into something no bigger than a cereal box.
- It fires a pulsed laser beam out of the rover’s mast to vaporise small portions of rock from a distance, providing information that will be essential to the mission’s success.
NASA lists five things to know
- From more than 7 m away, SuperCam can fire a laser to study rock targets smaller than a pencil point. That lets the rover study spots it can’t reach with its arm.
- SuperCam looks at rock textures and chemicals to find those that formed or changed in water on Mars long ago.
- SuperCam looks at different rock and “soil” types to find ones that could preserve signs of past microbial life on Mars — if any ever existed.
- For the benefit of future explorers, SuperCam identifies which elements in the Martian dust may be harmful to humans.
- Scientists can learn about how atmospheric molecules, water ice, and dust absorb or reflect solar radiation. This helps predict Martian weather better.