Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) Testing Minerals on Mars

Last Updated on June 2, 2020 by

Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES)

Mini-TES is an infrared spectrometer that can determine the mineralogy of rocks and soils from a distance by detecting their patterns of thermal radiation. All warm objects emit heat, but different objects emit heat differently. This variation in thermal radiation can help scientists identify the minerals on Mars. Mini-TES will record the spectra of various rocks and soils. These spectra can be studied to determine the type of minerals and their abundances at selected locations. One particular goal will be to search for minerals that were formed by the action of water, such as carbonates and clays. Mini-TES will also look at the atmosphere of Mars and gather data on temperature, water vapor, and the abundance of dust.

Mini-TES weighs 2.1 kg (almost 5 lbs) and is located in the body of the rover at the bottom of the “rover neck,” known as the Pancam Mast Assembly (PMA). Scanning mirrors located in the Pancam Mast Assembly act like a periscope to send light down to the instrument. This structure allows Mini-TES to see the terrain around the rover from the same vantage point as Pancam. Mini-TES looks one way, and the Pancams looks the other way. To make observations of the same location from both of the instruments, the Pancam Mast Assembly (the rover’s neck) must be commanded to swivel.