Mars rover Curiosity's first test-fire of its powerful laser was pronounced a big success, turning a small amount of nondescript rock into glowing, ionized plasma, reports Wired. The laser fired 30 pulses of energy over a 10-second period, each with more than 1 million watts of power but lasting just 5 one-billionths of a second. The rock formerly known as N165 was re-named "Coronation" in celebration of the test. By analyzing the light emitted by the zapped rock, the ChemCam's three spectrometers can figure out the elements in the rock.
“Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results," said the leader of the ChemCam team. "After eight years building the instrument, it’s payoff time!” Researchers boasted that the data they received from the test was even better than they got from Earth-bound test fires. “It’s so rich, we can expect great science from investigating what might be thousands of targets with ChemCam in the next two years," said another scientist on the ChemCam team. (Read more Mars stories.)