Each new sound sent by the rover is an exciting first because none of the missions before Mars carried microphones.
As the rover’s six metal wheels move across the Martian surface, you can hear the sound of cracks, pings, knocks, and crunches.
“A lot of people, when they see the images, don’t appreciate the wheels being metallic,” Vandi Verma, a senior engineer and rover pilot at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, said in a statement. “When you drive with these wheels on rocks, it’s actually very noisy.”
The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, California, manages the Perseverance rover’s mission.
The new audio shared by the agency on Wednesday was picked up by a sensitive microphone from the rover during a 90-foot ride on March 7th. This same microphone was used during the successful entry, descent and landing of the rover on February 18 and remains functional.
Two versions of the audio have been shared.
“If I heard those sounds driving my car, I would go and call a trailer,” Dave Gruel, JPL’s chief engineer of the rover’s camera and microphone subsystem, said in a statement. “But if you take a minute to consider what you’re listening to and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”
Since landing, the rover has gone through boxes of its systems and instruments to make sure Perseverance is ready for a voyage of discovery. The rover will look for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars and collect samples that will be returned to Earth for future missions.
Before Perseverance begins its scientific mission, the rover’s actions have been carried out to find a heliport for another component of the mission: the Ingenuity helicopter. The 4-pound helicopter will be the first to fly to another planet.
Vehicle and helicopter crews have found a suitable place to drop off the helicopter. Once the craft is released from the rover’s belly, it will have to be charged with sunlight and survive the frosty Martian nights before attempting up to five test flights for 31 days.
The first flight will only last about 20 seconds as Ingenuity glides over your heliport and more flights will be scheduled after the search team has data on the first attempt.
Perseverance cameras and microphones will be able to capture images, video and sound from these test flights, and the helicopter also carries a camera to share aerial views of Jezero Crater.
Once the Ingenuity experiment is over, Perseverance will begin exploring the ancient lake bed. And along with the images captured by the rover’s 19 cameras, the audio from its two microphones will provide a unique perspective on the rover’s journey.
“Variations between Earth and Mars: We have a visual sensation of it,” Verma said. “But sound is a whole different dimension: seeing the differences between Earth and Mars and experiencing this environment more closely.”
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