One microphone is located on the rover's chassis while the other sits on the mast. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This is so mesmerizing to me. The perfect noise machine. They should stream all the time.
With two microphones mounted on the Perseverance rover, NASA scientists listened to sounds on Mars. It managed to record approximately five hours of wind gusts, rover wheels crunching over gravel, and motors whirring while the arm moves. Such sounds provide a whole new experience for engineers and anyone else interested in the red planet.
One microphone sits on the rover's chassis while the other sits on the mast along with the SuperCam laser instrument. SuperCam zaps rocks and soil with a laser and analyzes the resulting vapor with a camera. These laser shots present opportunities to quickly capture its sound since it pulses up to hundreds of times per target. In total, the microphone recorded over 25,000 laser shots.
What's even more, scientists are learning about changes in the Martian atmosphere through some of these recordings. The SuperCam mic sits on the mast to monitor microturbulence while complementing the rover's wind sensors. These wind sensors are part of MEDA, Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer.
MEDA's sensors sample the wind speeds, pressure, and temperature once or twice every second for up to two hours at a time. Meanwhile, SuperCam's microphone provides similar data at 20,000 times per second over several minutes.
Additionally, the microphone introduces opportunities to research how sound circulates on Mars. Since the Martian atmosphere is less dense than Earth's, scientists knew that higher-pitched sounds would be difficult to hear. That's why they were surprised to learn that the microphone picked up Ingenuity's buzzing rotors during its fourth flight on April 30th. The helicopter was 262 feet away from the rover at the time.
Spacecraft maintenance could also benefit from audio equipment. Engineers equipped the Curiosity rover with cameras to monitor wear on its wheel. Insight also has cameras to check for dust accumulating on its solar panels. Microphones could be useful in that context because researchers could monitor the spacecraft's performance.
The mast microphone is part of the SuperCam instrument. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Perseverance's team is now collecting recordings from the rover's chassis microphone, which captures sounds from its wheels and other internal systems. Although there aren't sufficient recordings to detect changes, engineers may examine that data to discern subtle differences, such as more current being distributed to a particular wheel.
Perseverance recently captured images of the Jezero Crater's delta, confirming that the area once featured a lake. The images reveal the edge of the large delta outcrop along with an isolated butte called Kodiak. In the Kodiak images, the team saw layers of sediment that could only be deposited from a river flowing into a lake. These flows may have been produced from glacial surges or rainfall-induced flash floods.
If everything goes according to plan, Perseverance is expected to capture up-close images of the delta formation. The team plans on moving the rover to the delta outcrop, where it will collect samples. So far, the rover has collected two out of several dozen samples, which will eventually be sent back to Earth by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign.
Personally, I would love to just hear the ambient surface sound of mars. Maybe in the future.
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