Engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA have installed a critical instrument on the Mars 2020 rover. The instrument is the SuperCam Mast Unit. SuperCam has several components including a camera, laser, and spectrometers that can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20-feet.
SuperCam is a next-gen version of the ChemCam that is on Mars now as part of the Curiosity rover. SuperCam was developed jointly by the U.S., France, and Spain. France delivered the last piece of flight hardware for SuperCam, and it was integrated fully into the Mars 2020 rover on June 25, 2019. The final assembly was done at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room at JPL.
SuperCam will be used by scientists to examine rocks and soil on Mars as the Mars 2020 rover seeks to find evidence of past life on the planet. NASA still has a lot of work to do; in the coming weeks, the Mars 2020 Sample Caching System will be installed. That system has 17 different motors and is designed to collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be left on the surface of Mars to be returned to Earth by future missions.
Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July 2020 and will land on Mars at Jezero Crater in February 2021. SuperCam is led by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which is where the Body Unit for the instrument was built.
That portion of the rover was installed in the body of the rover in May and includes spectrometers, control electronics, and software. The Mast Unit consists of a laser, a telescope, a camera, an infrared spectrometer, and a microphone.