By adding a laser and an ion funnel to a mass spectrometer, it is possible to analyze the elements from the Martian surface directly, without the complex handling samples usually need.
The mass spectrometer is used to identify molecules, their elements and their isotopes in samples ranging from rocks to proteins. It does so by looking at their mass-to-charge ratios. Ordinarily a sample has to be prepared because it will be vaporized and then ionized so the electrons and atomic nuclei can be separated.
The new version uses a two-step technique. First it shoots a laser at the sample's surface. This creates a plume of molecules and ions. To get the ions into the mass spectrometer, the new system uses an ion funnel. The ion funnel uses conductive, progressively smaller electrodes in the shape of a ring that attract the ions, effectively vacuuming them into the mass spectrometer.
Lasers make everything better