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JPL’s Perseverance Mars Rover Records Sounds of Itself Driving

Site selected for 1st flight of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Published on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 | 3:45 pm
This photo was taken by the Perseverance Mars rover at Jezero Crater on March 7. (Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Jet Propulsion Laboratory released an audio recording Wednesday that captured the sounds of the Perseverance Mars rover crunching, rattling and bouncing along the surface of the Red Planet, as well as another yet-to-be-identified “high-pitched scratching noise” that has caught the attention of scientists.

Sound file: Sounds of Perseverance Mars rover driving on surface of Red Planet (Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The recording was taken on March 7 with a consumer-grade microphone that was added to the rover as something of an afterthought, JPL said in a written statement. The institution released a 16-minute unedited version, along with a shortened 90-second clip.

The noise ride is due to the way the SUV-sized, six-wheeled rover was built, JPL Senior Engineer and Rover Diver Vandi Verma said.

“A lot of people, when they see the images, don’t appreciate that the wheels are metal,” she explained. “When you’re driving with these wheels on rocks, it’s actually very noisy.”

“The variations between Earth and Mars — we have a feeling for that visually,” Verma said. “But sound is a whole different dimension.”

JPL’s Dave Gruel, who serves as lead engineer for the mission’s EDL camera and microphone subsystem, said if heard similar sounds coming from his car, “I’d pull over and call for a tow. But if you take a minute to consider what you’re hearing and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”

In the recordings, “the noise generated by the interaction of Perseverance’s mobility system — its wheels and suspension — with the surface can be heard, along with a high-pitched scratching noise,” the statement said. “Perseverance’s engineering team continues to evaluate the source of the scratching noise, which may either be electromagnetic interference from one of the rover’s electronics boxes or interactions between the mobility system and the Martian surface.”

The microphone that captured the sounds was not one of the primary science instruments designed for the rover, according to JPL.

“The off-the-shelf microphone was added to the rover to help take the public along for the ride during touchdown, but mission members have been eager to hear the sounds from the surface, too,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, scientists at JPL have also selected a suitable site to deploy the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter from the rover’s belly, according to the institution.

If all goes well, the 4-pound helicopter will carry out the first powered flight on another world. It’s then scheduled to complete up to five test flights over 30 days to demonstrate the technology and study the characteristics of flying on Mars.

The first flight was expected earlier than the first week of April, according to JPL.

Perseverance will then continue on its mission to explore Mars in preparation for human followers, as well as to hunt for evidence of ancient life.


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