Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity's Scientific Gear APXS

I was privileged to spend three hours with Curiosity last fall as I assisted the Kennedy Space Center team installing the Curiosity Rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).  The sensor head for the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer is installed during testing. The head is 7.8 centimeters or about 3 inches tall.   APXS, which sits at the end of Curiosity's arm, will measure the abundances of various chemical elements in Martian rocks and dirt.  Curiosity will place the instrument in contact with samples of interest, and APXS will shoot out X-rays and helium nuclei. This barrage will knock electrons in the sample out of their orbits, causing a release of X-rays. Scientists will be able to identify elements based on the characteristic energies of these emitted X-rays.  It is shown in its position in this picture.

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