25 nov 2011 : Launch of MSL-CHEMCAM
The French Space Agency known as the CNES, in partnership with the CNRS and the Universities, contributes to the U.S. mission MSL scheduled to land on Mars in 2012. MSL must determine whether the region explored has one day offered the favorable conditions for the emergence of life. It should fly to Mars on November 25, 2011 at 16:25 (French time) from Cape Canaveral in Florida on an Atlas rocket V541. The launch window extends from November 25 to December 18.
The MSL mission is on the responsibility of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA. His challenge is to remove the Rover Curiosity, a mobile vehicle equipped with 10 scientific instruments, on the Martian surface after about nine months of travel, then to explore and analyze the crater Gale in order to determine whether the conditions for the development of life on Mars have already existed. True mission of all the records, it is a total of 85 kg of scientific equipment that are loaded on a vehicle of 900 kg - 10 times more science than aboard the missions Spirit and Opportunity that have garnered numerous records and results since 2004. MSL is designed to operate one Martian year, that is to say, about 2 Earth years.
For the CNES and its partners, the French involvement is twofold: to participate in the design and the technical realization of two of the 10 instruments on board, ChemCam and SAM, as well as to the operations on the surface of Mars in real time. The French space agency is the prime contractor for the French contribution to MSL. Scientists and engineers will drive together ChemCam and SAM, especially from a mission center based at the CNES in Toulouse, the FIMOC.
The ChemCam instrument will analyze by spectrometry the light of a plasma coming from a laser shot on Martian rocks located between 2 and 7 meters around the Rover. It is under the scientific responsibility of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico / US and under the co-responsibility of the IRAP at the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees in Toulouse.
The Sat instrument will conduct analysis of rocks, soil and atmosphere, in order to search for carbon-related chemical compounds, methane included, associated with life. It is under the responsibility of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Maryland / US. The LATMOS and the LISA (IPSL, Paris) provided the chromatograph in gas phase (SAM-GC ), one of the three instruments which make up SAM, and ensure its scientific co-responsibility.
Further details about the MSL-CHEMCAM mission and the associated partners in the Press release (in French) and the Press kit (in English) :