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The Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover carries the tunable laser spectrometer

MDL News & Trends

MDL TLS Instrument Vital to Mars Science Laboratory Mission

With its rover named Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Curiosity, which successfully landed on Mars in August 2012, is designed to assess present-day habitability and whether Mars ever supported life.

The Mars Science Laboratory is the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the martian surface. It carries the tunable laser spectrometer (TLS), which includes a new kind of semiconductor laser — the interband cascade laser — developed at MDL specifically for methane detection.

NASA’s investment in the invention of the interband cascade laser paid off richly when TLS made new measurements of methane gas and key isotope ratios in hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen for gases in the Martian atmosphere and those evolved from heated soils and rocks.

To learn more about Tunable Laser Spectrometers (TLS) in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), please visit:

To learn more about the Mars Science Laboratory, please visit: