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NASA Curiosity rover fires its laser

It wasn’t a drive-by shooting, because the rover hasn’t moved an inch yet. But that’s about to change. On 19 August, the Mars Curiosity rover tested out the laser on its ChemCam instrument for the first time. The laser fired 30 pulses within 10 seconds at a fist-sized rock nicknamed Coronation (pictured), and a camera recorded the spectra of the induced sparks.

“Eep,” said the rock, according to its Twitter feed.

Testing out the ChemCam was one of the final instrument checks before Curiosity warms up its motors and makes way for an intriguing triple point about 400 metres away. On 17 August, project scientist John Grotzinger announced that the rover would head to this spot, called Glenelg.

Below, check out a new Nature video, which describes the rover’s landing and first two weeks in Gale crater and includes interviews with Grotzinger and deputy project scientist Joy Crisp.


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