Assembly In Action: Can Fiber Optics Determine if There's Life on Mars?
September 27, 2010
For more than 40 years, SELEX Galileo has developed space technology used throughout the world. So it was no surprise when the company was tapped in 2009 to be part of the ExoMars mission of the European Space Agency (ESA).
For the mission SELEX developed a visible-infrared spectrometer for use with the ExoMars rover. The spectrometer is called the Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-Miss for short), and it will help characterize the Red Planet’s biological environment. Funded by the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (Italy’s space agency), the project was under the direction of Professor Angioletta Coradini of the Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario.
The rover features a drill designed to dig into the surface of Mars and gather images. The Ma-Miss instrument works through a sapphire window at the drill’s side wall to analyze the material through which the drill is passing.
To help gather and illuminate images, SELEX equipped the spectrometer with custom fiber optic bundles with low attenuation from 400 to 2,400 nanometers. CeramOptic GmbH made the bundles and developed a fiber with an extremely low hydroxide content from which to form the bundles. Euromicron GmbH designed the specialized connectors used in the assemblies.
One custom bundle assembly will illuminate material through the sapphire window, while signal link assemblies gather multispectral images and carry them back to the spectrometer for analysis. The Ma-Miss will collect data that should yield important information on the geographic evolution of the planet’s near-surface crust, the evolution of its atmosphere and climate, and the existence of life-past or present-on Mars.
“We are delighted to be participating in these historic explorations for life beyond our world,” says Axel Hoben, sales engineer at CeramOptec.
For more information on fiber optic bundles, call 800-321-0790 or visit www.ceramoptec.com.