“NASA Mars Science Laboratory mission: the adventure continues for Atos aboard the rover Curiosity”

Paris, 11 February 2014

Atos, an international IT services company, participates daily, along with the CNES (French National Centre for Space Studies) in programming  tasks for CHEMCAN and SAM, two instruments of the NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. Curiosity has been exploring the soil of the red planet for 18 months to find evidence of past and present pro-life environments, with already a wealth of discoveries to its credit.

The Mars Science Laboratory is, undoubtedly, the most ambitious mission ever undertaken by NASA to explore Mars. Of the 10 rover scientific instruments, two have been built through the CNES construction project: ChemCam (laser-induced analysis of rock composition) and SAM (suite of instruments for studying collected rock samples). Atos experts, embedded in the CNES team, coordinating with NASA engineers, perform daily programming and monitoring of in-flight instruments based on exploration plans defined by the project scientists.

Laurent Peret, Atos Consultant, one of the French team's six engineers, is authorised to send instructions to ChemCam and participate in various daily teleconferences organised by NASA: “I am very pleased to participate in this scientific and technological adventure and be part of the CNES team that has received honours from NASA for its outstanding contribution to the Mars Science Laboratory. We program the ChemCam instrument daily and follow step by step the extraordinary discoveries that Curiosity transmits.”

The ChemCam programming defines the orientation of the head of the rover and other parameters, such as the number and power of the laser fire, focusing and the compression ratio of the micro-imager* images, etc. The collected data is used to analyse by spectroscopy the composition of the rocks hit by the laser. ChemCam, for example, has revealed gypsum veins on the Yellowknife Bay site. The presence of this hydrated mineral confirms that liquid water flowed on Mars in the past.

For SAM, the processing software integrated by the Atos teams decodes the telemetry from the instrument. The data generated is analysed to determine the presence of organic matter (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur), necessary for life and habitability of the planet Mars.  

Jean-Marie Simon, CEO of Atos France, expresses: "We are particularly proud to take part in this incredible space mission alongside the CNES who has had confidence in us and has chosen us as its technology partner. We share the challenges of our client for whom this collaboration with NASA is strategic. For the first time, French teams are responsible for controlling instruments on the surface of an alien planet. For the CNES and Atos, this is an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise in operations in the field of interplanetary scientific missions."

Atos teams have contributed over the past 20 years to the success of more than 50 space programmes and collaborated on numerous projects for the CNES and major industrial players in the aviation sector (European Space Agency, Airbus Defence and Space, and Thales Alenia Space).

The consortium led by Atos has been selected by the CNES to develop future space mission control centres, a crucial issue in the next 20 years for the French space agency.

Atos' "Space & Aeronautics" Centre of Excellence brings together competences in different topics to meet the challenges of our scientific clients both on IT aspects (complex system architecture, real-time techniques, management of standards in force in the aeronautics and space sectors) and on business aspects (flight dynamics, physics, structural mechanics, digital simulations and probability, orbit determination, satellite navigation, etc.). This team also rely on the Atos group's numerous skills in embedded, critical and security systems, which have allowed it to be a partner of the French nuclear programme for 30 years and the only large IT services company capable of providing the digital control systems of nuclear power plants.

* Micro-imager: instrument providing a high-resolution image of the rocks and soil samples analysed by laser ablation

About CNES

Founded in 1961, the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) is the government agency responsible for shaping and implementing France's space policy in Europe. Its task is to invent the space systems of the future, bring space technologies to maturity and guarantee France's independent access to space. CNES is a pivotal player in Europe's space programme, and a major source of initiatives and proposals that aim to maintain France and Europe's competitive edge. It conceives and executes space programmes with its partners in the scientific community and industry, and is closely involved in many international cooperation programmes—the key to any far-reaching space policy.

5 strategic focuses:

  • Ariane
  • Telecommunications
  • Observation
  • Sciences
  • Defence

About Atos

Atos SE (Societas europaea) is an international information technology services company with 2012 annual revenue of EUR 8.8 billion and 77,000 employees in 52 countries. Serving a global client base, it delivers IT services in 3 domains, Consulting & Technology Services, Systems Integration and Managed Services & BPO and transactional services through Worldline. With its deep technology expertise and industry knowledge, it works with clients across the following market sectors: Manufacturing, Retail & Services; Public sector, Healthcare & Transports; Financial Services; Telco, Media & Utilities. Atos is focused on business technology that powers progress and helps organizations to create their firm of the future. It is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games and is quoted on the NYSE Euronext Paris market. Atos operates under the brands Atos, Atos Consulting & Technology Services, Worldline and Atos Worldgrid.

Press contact:

Anne de Beaumont
+33 (0)6 23 76 19 41
anne.debeaumont@atos.net