EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

PIXL’s Micro Context Camera performance on the surface of Mars

David Pedersen1, Jesper Henneke1, John Leif Jørgensen1, Mathias Benn1, Troelz Denver1, Lars Timmermann1, Carl Christian Liebe2, Robert Denise2, Tim Elam3, Lawrence Wade2, Marc Foote2, Joel Hurowitz4, and Abigail Allwood2
David Pedersen et al.
  • 1Technical University of Denmark, DTU Space, Measurement and Instrumentation Systems, Denmark
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA
  • 3University of Washington, Washington, USA
  • 4Stony Brook University, Department of Geosciences, New York, USA

The Micro Context Camera (MCC) of PIXL onboard Perseverance has successfully completed commissioning. It meets all requirements and has led to the first proximity science using the PIXL instrument. This abstract presents the inflight system performance.

The pre-launch calibration of the MCC system has been verified on the surface of Mars. Distance measurements to Martian Rock surfaces are performed at with an accuracy better than 100 µm. This is accomplished utilizing Structured Light over the full diurnal thermal environment on the surface of Mars. The PIXL sensor unit is mounted on the turret of the Mars Perseverance rover arm. This autonomous navigation capability has enabled safe approaches of rugged surfaces, without ground intervention or interaction with e.g. a touch plate. It has also enabled proximity science of the Martian surface at unprecedented accuracy. The autonomy further enables PIXL to capture high resolution XRF scans while continuously maintaining optimal distance and focus of the X-ray beam. The system’s performance is robust enough for PIXL to navigate relative to both abraded and natural surfaces.

The MCC also has the capability of multispectral imaging. This has provided information for the interpretation of surface lithology and it also provides additional information for the XRF measurements interpretation due to its high resolution.

The MCC’s Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) autonomous functionality has also been demonstrated in the Martian environment. This capability is essential for PIXL to maintain the planned scan trajectory relative to the rock surface – as PIXL’s longer duration scans (up to 10 hours) is relying on stability and capability to compensate for the diurnal thermal environment causing position drift relative to the Martian rock surface. We present the measured performance on Mars. This show that the system performs reliably on both high and low topography rock surfaces with and without dust coverage. This has enabled PIXL to autonomously track and self-correct for any drift away from the planned scan trajectory.

How to cite: Pedersen, D., Henneke, J., Jørgensen, J. L., Benn, M., Denver, T., Timmermann, L., Liebe, C. C., Denise, R., Elam, T., Wade, L., Foote, M., Hurowitz, J., and Allwood, A.: PIXL’s Micro Context Camera performance on the surface of Mars, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11234,, 2022.