NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What A Blast! Curiosity Tests Its Laser; Zaps Rock 30 Times

From NASA: A composite image, with "magnified insets," depicting the first laser test by Curiosity.
From NASA: A composite image, with "magnified insets," depicting the first laser test by Curiosity.

Our favorite headline of the day has to be's "Pew! Pew! Pew! NASA's Curiosity Rover Zaps Mars Rock With Laser."

As the story says:

"A NASA rover has fired the first laser gun on Mars to take a peek inside a small Martian rock. The Mars rover Curiosity zapped a rock scientists are now calling 'Coronation' on Sunday (Aug. 19) to test an instrument that measures the composition of targets hit by its powerful laser beam. The rover fired 30 laser pulses in 10 seconds at the fist-size Coronation rock in order to analyze the results."

And our favorite new Twitter place to spend (or waste?) some time is also Curiosity-related: @SarcasticRover.

Two-Way readers might recall we have a fondness for Twitter accounts that purport to be the "voice" of something voiceless. Remember "Bronx Zoo Cobra?" @SarcasticRover has a similar ... sarcastic ... tone:

-- "You laser one stupid rock in the face and suddenly people say you have anger issues. Like the rock wasn't asking for it!"

-- "I'm gonna do so much flippin' biology up here that life on Earth will start wishing I was searching for it! TRU DAT."

-- "Best part about science is that even after you've done it once, you can do it again just for fun! (Same goes for sex... apparently)."

The man behind @SarcasticRover(sorry to disillusion anyone) is Jason Filiatrault. There's also , where Filatrault goes into more detail about the Mars mission. Of the laser experiment, for instance, he writes:

"Armed with a MILLION WATT atomic-laser, Curiosity blasted away at a small patch of an ordinary Mars-rock code-named, in best Bond-movie fashion – 'CORONATION.' ... Basically – the laser melts the rock, the camera telescopes the fumes, and by doing that we can tell what distant objects are made of without having to make the rover go right up to them and ask for the info directly."

(H/T to NPR's Russell Lewis; @NPRrussell.)

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Related Content
  • The Mars rover Curiosity is exploring the surface of the Red Planet in the Gale Crater, and it is also tweeting about its mission. The rover has a distinct personality, albeit one made by the strokes on a keyboard from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif.
  • Adam Steltzner, the leader of the Mars rover's entry, descent and landing engineering team, says he was terrified of "a false positive celebration" in the control room. Fortunately for him, Curiosity landed perfectly. Now he's eyeing Jupiter's moon.
  • One NASA scientist joked that one would be forgiven for thinking the agency was pulling a fast one by placing a rover in the Mojave Desert and saying it's on the Red Planet.
  • India turned 65 on Wednesday, and amid the great pomp and ceremony of National Day celebrations, the prime minister announced plans for a mission to Mars. India plans to send a research satellite to the Red Planet in November next year — at a cost of $82 million. Critics say the money would be better spent on the nation's creaky infrastructure, and connecting the 400 million Indians who are not on the national electricity grid.