Stories & Features

Semrock Optical Filters Used in NASA’s New Mars Rover

Jul 20, 2020 by IDEX Health & Science

IDEX Health & Science Semrock optical filters are on NASA’s new Perseverance rover that will try to definitively answer whether life ever existed on Mars. Working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), our optical filter team developed filters for the SHERLOC instrument, which will enable the rover to identify, collect and store rock and soil samples from Mars. The SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument is an arm-mounted, Deep UV (DUV) fluorescent spectrometer, which enables the rover to spatially resolve, and detect the characterization of organics and minerals in the Martian surface. The instrument is used to assess past aqueous history, detect the presence and preservation of potential biosignatures, and to support selection of return samples.

Watch a short video about the Mars 2020 rover

Building upon a previous project in 2015, our optical filters team and NASA worked together for two years to develop filters with spectral and mechanical requirements. The team also coordinated an on-site visit for NASA in 2016 to ensure quality of Semrock’s processes prior to purchasing the product.

NASA poses challenging specifications for optical filters, but we have been excited to support them in the science of space exploration,” said Christopher Fridd, our Product Manager for Optical Filters.

Parameters for the filters include:

  • Coated and customized glass substrates
  • Tight flatness tolerances
  • Tight dimension tolerances

Mars 2020 will collect and store rock and soil samples in sterilized tubes to be sent back to Earth for analysis. The rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, and pave the way for human exploration. NASA’s Mars 2020 team aims to launch the rover between July 20 and August 11, 2020, with the earliest launch date landing on July 30. If the NASA JPL team launches the Rover before August 11, 2020, the Perseverance is scheduled to land on Mars in February 2021. The mission needs to be launched in this time frame, or its next launch window to travel to Mars will not come until 2022.

Watch a CBS 60 Minutes segment on the Mars 2020 Rover

Learn More about Custom Semrock Optical Filters

(Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech)