The NASA program Mars 2020 will launch in July 2020 a single Rover that will land and operate on the surface of Mars. It intends to conduct a Mars Habitability investigation, with habitability defined as the “capacity of the environment to sustain life”, i.e., the potential of a given environment to support life at some time, past or present.

The mission will focus on a roving, long-duration science laboratory that will provide a quantitative improvement in surface measurements and pave the way for future Martian surface and sample return missions. The assessment of habitability is to be made through multidisciplinary measurements related to biology, climatology, mineralogy, geology and geochemistry in terrain, which may include (depending on the site selected) sedimentary, hydrothermal and ancient deposits. Among different investigation techniques, the SuperCam instrument will provide powerful techniques to help the Mars2020 rover to reach those scientific goals.

SuperCam instrument concept

The SuperCam instrument is an evolution from the successful ChemCam instrument on MSL-Curiosity. In addition to the existing elemental capabilities (LIBS – Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy), a new Raman spectroscopic analysis is implemented, coupled to an infrared spectrometer, and a microphone. To help context imaging, an improvement of the Remote Micro Imager (RMI) is done with a new color detector.

The SuperCam package consists of three separate major units – “Body Unit”, “Mast Unit” and “Calibration Targets”, which are further broken down into modular components. The Mast Unit is provided by IRAP (Toulouse, France), while LANL (Los Alamos, NM) is building the Body Unit. The IRAP and LANL portions are entirely separated mechanically, greatly simplifying interface controls as well as development across international boundaries. The University of Valladolid (UVa) in Spain is primarily responsible for the SuperCam on-board calibration target assembly.

The Mast Unit (SCMU) consists of a telescope with a focusing stage, a pulsed laser and its associated electronics, an infrared spectrometer, a color CMOS micro-imager, and focusing capabilities. A new development for SuperCam is the two separated optical paths for LIBS (“red line”) and Raman spectroscopy (“green line). To support the LIBS investigation and to monitor various natural (wind) or artificial sounds, a Microphone is implemented outside on the RWEB.

The Body Unit (SCBU) consists of three spectrometers covering the UV, violet, visible and near-infrared ranges needed for LIBS. The UV and violet spectrometers are identical to ChemCam. The visible spectrometer uses a transmission grating and an intensifier so that it can perform LIBS and Raman spectroscopy. The intensifier allows rapid time gating needed to remove the background light and amplification so that the weak Raman emission signals can be easily observed. A fiber optic cable as well as signal and power cables connects the Mast and Body units.

In addition, a set of calibration (SCCT) targets mounted on the Rover will enable periodic calibration of the instrument.

The SCMU is designed and manufactured in France, under CNES contract and general formal management, with a common French effort of the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and Universities:

  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France·
  • Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), Toulouse, France
  • Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), Toulouse, France
  • Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (OMP), Toulouse, France
  • Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux (LAB), Floirac, France
  • Laboratoire d’Etudes Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA), Meudon,
  • France
  • Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS), Guyancourt, France
  • ISAE, Toulouse, France

The Mars2020 mission is a very ambitious program in a very short time (3 years for the instruments) and therefore we built several models (Structural and Thermal Model, Engineering Model, Qualification Model) before building the Flight Model able to survive the harsh space and Mars environment and fulfilling the scientific requirements.

The SCMU Flight Model delivery to LANL is expected fall 2018, for a formal delivery of the SuperCam suite to JPL early 2019. The launch from Cape Canaveral is planned July 2020.

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Contact : Philippe Caïs

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