Southern California breaking news and trends

Space lasers are happening: Curiosity to fire at unsuspecting Martian rock

 first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater Mars


This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.

NASA takes the figurative phasers off stun as Curiosity, the world's coolest remote control vehicle, prepares to fire its space laser at an unsuspecting Martian rock next week.

Since landing in the Gale crater on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, NASA's rover has been getting a full health checkup. Now, it's time for target practice.

Scientists said Friday they've selected a generic-looking rock about 10 feet away from the landing site to ready, aim, fire, and burn with a small hole.

Let's just hope the generic-looking rock they've selected isn't one of those generic-looking fakes with a hidden key inside that leads to some other part of Mars that's invisible or located in another dimension or something. 

The laser is one of ten tools Curiosity will be using to study the planet in search of signs that the environment was favorable for microbial life.


Legislation lands a second suspect in the battle between lasers and flying machines

laser show laser pointer lasers

Photo by l indien via Flickr Creative Commons

To purposefully point a laser at an aircraft is now a federal offense, and a Los Angeles 18-year-old faces the possibility of up to 10 years in prison for allegedly aiming a green one at an airplane and a helicopter in March.

Adam Gardenhire was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, the second use of new legislation passed last year.

Lasers can blind or distract pilots, according to the FAA, and the growing number of incidents prompted the new measure. More than 3,500 reports were registered last year.

Prosecutors say the man aimed first at a Cessna, and then at the Pasadena police helicopter responding to the pilot's call to authorities.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner