Mineral-Mapping Imager Begins Mission at Mars
October 2, 2006
The most powerful mineral-mapper ever sent to Mars opened its protective cover and is about to begin its search for hints of past water on the red planet.
The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), designed and built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is one of six science instruments aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. CRISM’s spring-loaded cover had been closed since the orbiter’s launch in August 2005, protecting the imager’s sensitive telescope optics from fuel residue and heat as the spacecraft eased into orbit around Mars. Last week, a day after turning on CRISM’s power and putting the device through a series of performance tests, operators opened the cover and verified that it had deployed properly.
CRISM will look for areas that were wet long enough to leave a mineral signature on the surface, searching for the spectral traces of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits, and mapping the geology, composition, and stratigraphy of surface features. The imager will map areas on the martian surface as small as 60 feet (about 18 meters) across, with the orbiter at its average altitude of about 190 miles (300 kilometers).
For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and CRISM, visit the following Web sites:
Last updated January 30, 2008