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NASA launches its latest mission to Mars – Mars 2020 Perseverance – on 30 July.
The objective is the latest step in preparing for further Martian exploration, human and robotic, and will aim to collect samples to better understand the geology and biohistory of the red planet, ascertain habitability and look for possible biosignatures and the potential for in-situ oxygen production.
As with the 2011 Mars Curiosity mission, Mars 2020 Perseverance will land a robotic four-wheeled rover on the surface of the red planet. The SuperCam will be one of several instruments deployed by Perseverance and has been developed to provide imaging, chemical and mineral analysis at distance. Unlike its predecessor on the ChemCam aboard Curiosity, Perseverance’s SuperCam will be have an inbuilt infrared spectrometer (IRS). At the heart of the spectrometer is a G&H acousto-optic tunable filter (AOTF). Engineered to meet the simultaneous requirements of “+” and “-” order diffraction at 1300 nm < λ < 2600 nm, the AOTF characterisation is critical to the IRS performance*.
Space agencies on three continents have all incorporated G&H components into their space exploration and earth observation programs. G&H AOTFs are currently orbiting the red planet as part of ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter satellite within the frames of EXOMARS mission. AO devices were also deployed within the instrument onboard the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) as part of the 2014 JAXA Hayabusa 2 mission and on-board LISA Pathfinder mission. Super-polished mirrors were instrumental to the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars with NASA’s Sky Crane.
We wish Perseverance a successful mission and look forward to seeing the images from the SuperCam and IRS.