In the summer of 2020, the Perseverance rover began its 30-day trip to the surface of Mars. Its primary objective: seek out signs of ancient Martian life and collect samples for analysis upon its hopeful return to Earth. One of the keys to fulfilling this objective: an advanced camera and analysis assembly capable of identifying the chemical and mineral makeup of objects as tiny as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (7 meters).
Due to the critical nature of this project, the experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory sought a partner they could trust to make the optical components of the camera-analyzer assembly. Since they had previously worked with the team at OPCO Laboratory on several other projects, they knew it would be easy to work with us, and we would offer favorable delivery times.
Additionally, given the successful performance of past parts we provided, they could trust us to produce the optics to their specifications and standards.
In the fall of 2009, a small spectrometer aboard the NASA LCROSS satellite detected the presence of water in a cold, polar region of the Earth’s moon.
The results of that brief mission were so successful that a similar spectrometer was added to the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, the Lunar LADEE mission, and Opco Laboratory, Inc. received another call to build a second set of telescope and spectrometer optics for a lunar satellite.
Since the 1960s, NASA has worked to study the wonders of Mars. The recent Mars 2020 mission resulted in the launch of Perseverance, a Mars rover designed to discover signs of ancient life on the Red Planet and collect samples of rock and regolith. The rover’s SuperCam assembly is essential to its mission. It consists of a camera, laser, and spectrometer. Altogether, these elements allow the rover to determine the chemical composition (including the atomic and molecular makeup) of rock and soil samples. This information can be used for a number of purposes, including:
- Discovering whether objects were formed or changed in water on Mars in the past
- Locating signs of past microbial life (if any ever existed)
- Identifying elements that could be potentially dangerous to future explore improving our ability to predict Martian weather
OPCO Laboratory Inc. provided optical components for the Perseverance Rover SuperCam. The SuperCam is used to examine soil and rocks via multiple cameras, laser and spectrometers. After producing the components to the required specifications, we shipped them to Los Alamos National Laboratory as requested. We delivered twelve sets of lenses within eight weeks of the initial request.
Upon receipt of the parts, the customer found them to fully meet the required specifications and standards. Following the rover’s successful landing on the surface of Mars, our components are in place to help the rover start to fulfill its objective. Multiple readings from the SuperCam instrument have already been transmitted to Earth, including an image of a close-up view of the rock target named “Máaz” and a recording of the sounds produced by a Martian wind.
OPCO Laboratory, Inc. is very proud to have contributed (in a small way) to this mission to mars and to help the Perseverance rover fulfill its mission objectives.
For more information on the Mars Perseverance rover mission visit the NASA mission 2020 overview website.