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MMRS: in situ Planetary Raman Spectroscopy

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We first proposed to use Raman spectroscopy for in-situ mineralogical analysis in 1994. Now, this technique is becoming recognized for its high promise for obtaining detailed, definitive mineralogy of planetary materials as they are encountered by scientific missions to planetary surfaces. We are developing a flight Raman spectrometer. It was selected as a part of the Athena rover payload for the Mars Surveyor 2003 and 2005 missions. The detailed engineering for this is being done at the Jet Propulsion laboratory. All Mars Surveyor missions were recently cancelled because of the two failed Mars missions in 1999. The development of our flight Raman system, the Mars Microbeam Raman Spectrometer (MMRS), is continuing because its importance for future planetary missions is recognized by the planetary science community.

Dr. C.V. Raman discovered the specific light scattering phenomenon that bears his name in 1928 and he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. It was rarely considered for applications to geology during the first 40 years after its discovery because of the intrinsic weakness of the Raman signal. Among the first planetary applications were Raman spectroscopic studies of lunar materials brought back by the Apollo missions. Now, with the help of better lasers (~1960) and the use of micro-Raman techniques (~1975), mineralogists and geologists increasingly are using Raman spectroscopy.  Technological developments of the last decade have introduced a new generation of Raman spectrometers, and have brought Raman spectroscopy from being mainly a research instrument in academic laboratories to serving as a process control instrument in industrial facilities. Today's high-performance Raman system is only about the size of PC computer. As pertinent technology progresses, a new generation of miniaturized Raman instruments is being developed, instruments that are small enough to fit in a human hand.  It is now feasible to apply Raman spectroscopy as a field tool for geology and planetary exploration.

In the following pages, we explain some basic concepts of Raman scattering and Raman spectroscopy, and provide a schematic overview of the feasibility of Raman spectroscopy for planetary exploration and some advantages to its use. We present results from our studies of planetary materials during the past few years in the section on planetary applications of Raman spectroscopy. We also describe our work toward developing a Raman system suitable for in situ phase characterization on planetary surfaces, especially for the coming Mars missions, in the section on instrumental studies. You may check the planetary missions if you are interested in them.

FAQs ] Overview ] Missions ] Current brassboard ] Instrument ] Applications ]

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