Characterization and calibration of the CheMin mineralogical instrument on Mars Science Laboratory

David Blake, David Vaniman, Cherie Achilles, Robert Anderson, David Bish, Tom Bristow, Curtis Chen, Steve Chipera, Joy Crisp, David Des Marais, Robert T. Downs, Jack Farmer, Sabrina Feldman, Mark Fonda, Marc Gailhanou, Hongwei Ma, Doug W. Ming, Richard V. Morris, Philippe Sarrazin, Ed StolperAllan Treiman, Albert Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-399
Number of pages59
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Mars habitability
  • Mars science laboratory
  • Mineralogy
  • Planetary science
  • Spacecraft instruments
  • X-ray diffraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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