In addition to thousands of images being sent back to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory by the Perseverance Mars rover, the intrepid robotic explorer has begun providing audio recordings as well, including the sounds of Martian wind and the rover’s scientific laser blasting into a rock to study its composition.
The recordings represent the first time a microphone has been successfully deployed on the Red Planet to allow Earthlings to hear the Martian breeze, according to NASA.
The sounds come courtesy of instruments atop the rover’s SuperCam instrument, which was built for the rover at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, in collaboration with French scientists, JPL said in a written statement.
Research Scientist and Lecturer Naomi Murdoch of the ISAE-SUPAERO aerospace engineering school in Toulouse, France, said the sounds returning from Mars were of “remarkable quality.”
“It’s incredible to think that we’re going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars,” she said.
Scientists were delighted by the performance of the 12-pounds SuperCam, which can perform five different types of geological analysis.
“It is amazing to see SuperCam working so well on Mars,” according to SuperCam Principle Investigator Roger Wiends of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “When we first dreamed up this instrument eight years ago, we worried that we were being way too ambitious. Now it is up there working like a charm.”
One of three audio recordings released by JPL was made shortly after landing, according to JPL. It captured the faint sounds of Martian wind, along with internal sounds associated with the rover itself, as the microphone was not yet fully deployed atop its mast.
Another recording released by the laboratory contains sounds of Martian wind, with rover noises removed.
A third recording contains the sounds of Perseverance blasting a rock with a laser beam to analyze its chemical composition.
NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbushen thanked all of the team members around the world who helped make the milestone possible.
“SuperCam truly gives our rover eyes to see promising rock samples and ears to hear what it sounds like when the lasers strike them,” he said. “This information will be essential when determining which samples to cache and ultimately return to Earth through our groundbreaking Mars Sample Return Campaign, which will be one of the most ambitious feats ever undertaken by humanity.”
While NASA has sent microphones to Mars on two prior occasions, they were not able to send back recordings of the Red Planet.
“Unfortunately, one of those missions, the Mars Polar Lander, failed,” according to a NASA statement. “The Phoenix Lander had a microphone on the spacecraft’s descent camera, but that instrument was never turned on.”
More information on the Perseverance rover and its mission can be found online at jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mars-2020-perseverance-rover.
Audio: Perseverance records Martian wind and rover sounds
Audio: Perseverance records Martian wind (rover sounds removed)
Audio: Perseverance blasts Mars rock with Laser