Mars 2020 / SuperCam

Thematic group : PEPS
Scientific leader : Sylvestre Maurice
OSU Principal : Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, developed by Caltech/JPL, will land the Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars in February 2021 (launch in July 2020). Onboard, the Franco-American SuperCam instrument will remotely determine the elemental composition and mineralogy of the rocks and soils of Mars, using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy, and Raman Spectroscopy. The instrument carries also a color camera and a microphone.

The objective of the mission is to study the past habitability of the Jezero Crater, its geology and the aqueous geochemistry of the ancient sediments it contains. The mission will search for traces of past life on Mars, if they exist. It will prepare samples that can be brought back to Earth by a future mission. It will carry a drone and an instrument that makes oxygen for future manned flights. The SuperCam instrument will be at the heart of this research. It will be used to select the samples and to characterize their geological environment.

SuperCam will be operated on a daily basis, alternating with LANL, from FOCSE – Mars 2020 at CNES, where the CNES technical teams and the Toulouse scientists of the project will meet.


The “Service d’Observation” SuperCam provides scientific and technical support for the construction of the SuperCam instrument, prepares the operations from France, sets up the data reduction scheme, and finally prepares the distribution of these data. The SO manages the calibration station of the instrument at IRAP. Data from Mars or calibration data will be made available to the community at the Planetary Data System (PDS).

IRAP involvement

The SuperCam instrument was developed jointly by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL, Los Alamos, NM) and laboratories of CNRS and Universities, under the supervision of IRAP. LANL and IRAP have the scientific responsibility for SuperCam. Sylvestre Maurice is co-PI of SuperCam.

SuperCam Mast-Unit (French contribution) at the top of the Mars 2020 / Perseverance (June 2019 ©Caltech/JPL)


This project is a NASA-CNES bilateral collaboration. CNES is the contracting authority of the French contribution to SuperCam. The participation of more than 40 French scientists is supported by the different sponsors of their laboratories (CNRS, Universities).