These sounds are really World War II.
NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded 60 seconds of Mars sound on Saturday (February 20), just two days after its picture-perfect touchdown inside the Jezero Crater. The recently released file, which contains mechanical vortex from the rover and the rattle of a red planetary breeze, is the first real sound ever caught on the surface of a planet other than Earth.
“Really nice – overwhelming if you will,” said Dave Gruel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California during a news conference on Monday (February 22). The sound was revealed during the briefing as it was jaw-dropping video Endurance caught during February 1
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Gruel is responsible for Perseverance’s EDL camera system, which includes a commercial microphone built on the shelf, built by the Danish company DPA Microphones. This instrument was supposed to record sound during the rover’s seven minutes of terror “touchdown, but did not do so for reasons that Gruel and his colleagues are investigating. The microphone came to life quickly enough, but recorded the historical audio excerpt on Saturday.
Endurance, the heart of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, also carries another microphone – one built into its rock-zapping SuperCam instrument.
SuperCam is not running yet; the team still performs health checks on Perseverance’s instruments and subsystems. When SuperCam is online, the microphone will help the mission team characterize the targets and reveal how hard they are and whether they have a thin coating. The microphone could also pick up a number of other sounds, such as the breeze and dirt of dirt under the wheels of endurance.
Endurance may record stereo sound on Mars at some point by using EDL and SuperCam microphones in concert. However, there are no guarantees; The EDL microphone was not optimized for use on the harsh, cool Mars surface, so it is unclear how long it will last. Gruel told Space.com last week.
Mars 2020 is an ambitious mission that will advance Red Planet exploration in a variety of ways, if all goes according to plan. For example, endurance will hunt for signs of ancient Mars life on the floor of Jezero, which hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago. The rover will also collect and cache dozens of samples that a joint NASA European Space Agency campaign will return to Earth, perhaps already in 2031.
The mission also carries several technological demonstrations. One, an instrument called MOXIE (“Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment”), is designed to generate oxygen from the thin, carbon dioxide-dominated Mars atmosphere. Another is Mars Helicopter Ingenuity, which aims to become the first rotorcraft ever to fly in a world beyond Earth.
Ingenuity’s test campaign will be the first major activity the mission team will begin after Perseverance kicks off. 4-lb. (1.8 kg) chopper flights are expected to take place in the spring, and one or both microphones may detect the history-producing kinds.
High-frequency sounds are attenuated very quickly Mars’ atmosphere, which is only 1% as close as Earth’s. But microphones could possibly collect some low rotor wash, mission team members have told Space.com.
Such sound will have value beyond the scientific insights they provide and help bring the red planet closer to all of us, Gruel said.
During Monday’s press conference, he told a story about a conversation he had several years ago while giving a tour of the JPL. One of the tour participants was particularly enthusiastic 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 from Mars Rover photos that most of us take for granted.
“And it’s stuck with me,” Gruel said.
“I wish I had actually captured the individual name,” he added. “I would love to reach out to her now and say, ‘We did it. I hope your sister enjoys it.'”
While the recently released recording shows the first true Mars sound, it is not the first sound of any type captured on the red planet. NASA’s InSight Lander “heard” the Martian wind shortly after its touch in November 2018 after processing data collected by an air pressure sensor and a seismometer.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.