Preparation of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) for Mars 2020

Date and Time


MACN 222



Christopher Heirwegh, Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory


The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is a compact X-ray fluorescence spectrometer selected for Mars 2020. PIXL delivers a sub-millimeter focused X-ray beam allowing for bulk-chemical analysis of the Martian rock and soil, a capability analogous to earlier generation rover X-ray systems. New to this generation of remote-science X-ray spectrometers is PIXL’s ability to produce high-resolution 2-D elemental maps of its targets, allowing for detailed chemical analysis of the fine scale rock features. As a key component of the 2020 mission, NASA will utilize PIXL to uncover the secrets of Mars’ early geological history, including the search for potential bio-signatures and informing samples worth caching for future return to Earth.

As the 2020 launch date approaches, the PIXL development team is taking great effort to prepare and calibrate the flight system before its departure. This talk will provide an instrument overview of its key features, mapping capabilities, operational data products, supporting software packages and the flight unit’s recent elemental calibration results. Attention will be directed to discussing PIXL’s anticipated levels of accuracy in quantifying major (MgO, Al2O3, SiO2, CaO and FeO) and minor (SO3, K2O, TiO2, Cr2O3 and MnO) element-oxide constituents in the Martian Rock.

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