These sounds are truly from another world.
NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded 60 seconds of its Martian on Saturday, February 20, just two days after its Perfect landing inside Jezero crater. The new file, which features the mechanical roar of the rover and the rustle of a breeze from the Red Planet, is the first true sound ever to be captured on the surface of a planet other than Earth.
“Really good – overwhelming, if you will,” Dave Gruel, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said at a press conference Monday, February 22. The audio was unveiled during this briefing, as was breathtaking video Perseverance captured during its entry, descent and landing on February 18 (EDL).
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Gruel is in charge of Perseverance’s EDL camera system, which includes a standard commercial microphone built by Danish company DPA Microphones. This instrument was supposed to capture sound during the rover’s “seven minutes of terror” landing but did not, for reasons that Gruel and his colleagues are investigating. However, the microphone came to life early enough, recording the historic sound clip on Saturday.
Perseverance, at the heart of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, also features a second mic – a microphone built into its SuperCam instrument.
SuperCam is not yet operational; the team still performs health checks on Perseverance instruments and subsystems. Once SuperCam goes live, the microphone will help the mission team characterize the target rocks, revealing their hardness and fineness. The mic could also capture a variety of other sounds, such as Martian breezes and the crunch of dirt under the wheels of Perseverance.
Perseverance may be able to record stereo sound on Mars at some point, using EDL and SuperCam mics in concert. However, there is no guarantee; the micro EDL has not been optimized for use on the hard, icy Martian surface, so it is not known how long it will last, Gruel told Space.com last week.
Mars 2020 is an ambitious mission that will advance the exploration of the Red Planet in a number of ways, if all goes as planned. For example, Perseverance will look for signs of ancient life on Mars on the soil of Jezero, which was home to a lake and a river delta billions of years ago. The rover will also collect and cache dozens of samples, which a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign may bring back to Earth. from 2031.
The mission also performs several technology demonstrations. One, an instrument called MOXIE (“Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment”), is designed to generate oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide. Another is the Helicopter ingenuity on Mars, which aims to become the first rotorcraft to fly over a world beyond Earth.
The Ingenuity test campaign will be the first big activity the mission team will undertake after setting up Perseverance. The 4 books. (1.8 kilograms) of the helicopter flights are expected to take place this spring, and one or both microphones could record the historic outings.
High frequency sounds subside very quickly The atmosphere of Mars, which is just 1% as dense as the Earth. But the mics could possibly pick up a serious rotor washout, members of the mission team told Space.com.
Such audio will have value beyond the scientific knowledge they provide, helping to bring the Red Planet closer to us all, said Gruel.
At Monday’s press conference, he told a story about a conversation he had several years ago while visiting JPL. One of the tour participants was particularly excited about the microphones provided by Perseverance. Gruel asked why, and she replied that her sister was visually impaired and therefore couldn’t get the same pleasure and inspiration from Mars rover photos that most of us take for granted.
“And it marked me,” Gruel said.
“I would have liked to have captured the name of this individual,” he added. “I would love to reach out to her now and say, ‘We did it. I hope your sister enjoys it.'”
While the newly released recording features the first true Martian audio, it is not the first sound of any kind captured on the Red Planet. NASA’s InSight lander “heard” the Martian wind shortly after its landing in November 2018, after processing data collected by an atmospheric pressure sensor and seismometer.
Mike Wall is the author of “Over there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.