The Mars science lab (nicknamed curiosity) has a laser! It is not for self defence but for analysing rocks. It has fired nearly 500 shots so far and it has produced strong clear data about the Mars surface.
When the laser fires it focuses the energy of 1 million lightbulbs onto an area that is the size of a pinhead. It vaporises a small amount of its target and the resultant flash is picked up by the year aperture telescope which sends light down the optical fibre to a spectrometer. The colours from the flash are recorded and then sent to Earth to work out the composition.
The laser is one of 10 instruments that are mounted on curiosity. The French space agency (CNES) built the ChemCam’s laser, telescope and camera.
Curiosity is planned to next take a short trip to test out other systems. There is no rush it has a nuclear power supply. The mission will study the Martian environment in the vicinity of Mt Sharp which is a tall peak with a summit about 3 miles above the Rover. Mount Sharp appears to contain layers of sedimentary rock which will give a history dating back billions of years. This should give the history of Mars.