French Embassy Officials Attend NASA Rocket Launch
On November 26. 2011, the Embassy of France was invited to attend the launch of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The French delegation included Frédéric Doré, Deputy Chief of Mission and several high rank representatives of the CNES, France’s National Space Agency.
At 10:03 a.m., an Atlas V rocket illuminated the sky of Florida when it lifted off from its launch pad, exactly at the expected time. The rocket contained the most complex and expensive spacecraft ever launched to another planet, the rover Curiosity. After an eight-month journey in space, the nearly one metric ton vehicle will land on Mars, seeking for organic components, possible signs of previous life forms that may have appeared in the early age of the planet.
Mars Science Laboratory, the name of the mission, was developed under NASA’s supervision, but it also involved several space agencies from other countries, the most important being the CNES. For this program, French engineers designed two of the ten scientific instruments carried by Curiosity: the Chemcam (Chemistry Camera) and the SAM-GC (Sample Analysis on Mars – Gas Chromatograph).
The first instrument is able to determine the composition of rocks 30 feet away from the rover, using a laser, while the second is a small chemistry laboratory that can separate the different components, for example organic, of a soil sample.
The CNES will take part in the operations of the rover during its stay on Mars in cooperation with NASA, a proof of the deep trust between the two agencies and an illustration of France’s know-how in space matters.
Learn more on the CNES bureau in the USA : http://www.france-science.org/-Etats-Unis-Espace-.html