MSL will employ a laser fired from the rover's mast assembly that will then analyze the composition of the vaporized rock or soil from the resulting plasma of ionized material using the on-board spectrograph. The laser will also be used to clear dust from rocks and will use its remote camera to obtain highly detailed images of areas up to ten times smaller than those capable of being observed by the MER rovers. The ChemCam will be able to remotely analyze distant rocks or other geologic forms from one to nine meters away, where the MSL is unable to approach, and will be able to identify the composition of soils and small stones and determine whether they are volcanic or sedimentary. It will also be able to measure a great many chemical elements within the rock or sold specimens, including trace elements having less than 1,000 parts per million. Most importantly, it will be able to recognize ice and even water molecules in minerals. Like the mast assembly on the MER rovers, the MSL mast assembly will be able to rotate 180 degrees in both directions and will have elevation pan capability.
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