These sounds are really otherworldly.
NASA’s rover Perseverance recorded 60 seconds of Martian sound on Saturday (February 20), just two days after its a picturesquely perfect touch in Crater Lake. The newly opened file, which contains the mechanical swirling of the rover and the rustling of the Red Planet’s breeze, is the first true sound ever recorded on the surface of a planet other than Earth.
“Really tidy – irresistible, if you will,” said Dave Gruel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California during a news conference Monday (February 22nd). The sound was presented during that briefing, as it was video that leaves the jaw Caught perseverance during entry, landing and landing (EDL) on 18 February.
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Gruel is in charge of Perseverance’s EDL camera system, which includes a commercial microphone made by Danish company DPA Microphones. That instrument was supposed to catch the sound during the rover’s touch with “seven minutes of terror”, but it didn’t do that for the reasons that Gruel and his colleagues are investigating. The microphone, however, soon came to life by recording a historical clip of the sound on Saturday.
Perseverance, the heart of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, includes another microphone – built into its superCam instrument.
SuperCam is not yet up and running; the team still conducts health checks on Perseverance instruments and subsystems. Once the SuperCam comes online, the microphone will help the mission team characterize the target rocks by revealing how hard they are and whether they have a thin layer. The microphone could record a variety of other sounds, such as a Martian breeze and the crushing of dirt beneath the wheels of the Perseverance.
Perseverance may at some point be able to record stereo sound on Mars, using EDL and SuperCam microphones in agreement. However, there are no guarantees; The EDL microphone is not optimized for use on a rough, cold Martian surface, so it’s unclear 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 various ways, if everything goes according to plan. For example, Perseverance will hunt for signs of the ancient life of Mars on the floor of the Lake, which billions of years ago hosted lakes and river deltas. Rover will also collect and store dozens of samples, which a joint campaign by NASA and the European Space Agency will return to Earth, perhaps as early as 2031.
The mission is also holding several technical demonstrations. One, an instrument called MOXIE (“Experiment to Exploit Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resources”), is designed to generate oxygen from a thin Martian atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide. It’s another Mars helicopter – ingenuity, which aims to become the first rotor to ever fly the world outside of Earth.
The trial campaign of ingenuity will be the first major activity the mission team undertakes since launching Perseverance. 4-lb. Helicopter flights (1.8 kilograms) are expected to be held this spring, and one or both microphones may record the crashes in history.
High frequency sounds are attenuated very quickly Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% dense like Earth. But the microphones may be able to pick up a little rotor wash, members of the mission team told Space.com.
Such a sound will have more value than the scientific insights they provide, helping all of us get closer to the Red Planet, Gruel said.
During a press conference on Monday, he told the story of a conversation he had a few years ago during a tour of the JPL. One of the tour participants was especially excited about Perseverance’s planned microphones. Gruel asked why, and she replied that her sister is visually impaired and therefore cannot get the same enjoyment and inspiration in Mars rover photos that most of us take for granted.
“And that stuck me,” Gruel said.
“I wish I had actually recorded that person’s name,” he added. “I’d like to come to her now and say, ‘We did it. I hope your sister enjoys it.'”
Although the newly released recording shows the first real Martian sound, it is not the first sound of any kind recorded on the Red Planet. NASA’s InSight Consent “heard” the Martian wind shortly after the touchdown in November 2018 after processing the data collected by the air pressure sensor and seismometer.
Mike Wall is the author of “There“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.