, Volume 170, Issue 1-4, pp 341-399,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Jun 2012

Characterization and Calibration of the CheMin Mineralogical Instrument on Mars Science Laboratory


A principal goal of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity is to identify and characterize past habitable environments on Mars. Determination of the mineralogical and chemical composition of Martian rocks and soils constrains their formation and alteration pathways, providing information on climate and habitability through time. The CheMin X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument on MSL will return accurate mineralogical identifications and quantitative phase abundances for scooped soil samples and drilled rock powders collected at Gale Crater during Curiosity’s 1-Mars-year nominal mission. The instrument has a Co X-ray source and a cooled charge-coupled device (CCD) detector arranged in transmission geometry with the sample. CheMin’s angular range of 5 to 50 2θ with <0.35 2θ resolution is sufficient to identify and quantify virtually all minerals. CheMin’s XRF requirement was descoped for technical and budgetary reasons. However, X-ray energy discrimination is still required to separate Co Kα from Co Kβ and Fe Kα photons. The X-ray energy-dispersive histograms (EDH) returned along with XRD for instrument evaluation should be useful in identifying elements Z>13 that are contained in the sample. The CheMin XRD is equipped with internal chemical and mineralogical standards and 27 reusable sample cells with either Mylar® or Kapton® windows to accommodate acidic-to-basic environmental conditions. The CheMin flight model (FM) instrument will be calibrated utilizing analyses of common samples against a demonstration-model (DM) instrument and CheMin-like laboratory instruments. The samples include phyllosilicate and sulfate minerals that are expected at Gale crater on the basis of remote sensing observations.