This first audio of a drive across the Martian surface joins a growing playlist of Mars sounds beamed back to Earth from Perseverance. A second microphone, part of the rover’s SuperCam instrument, previously picked up the sighing of Martian wind and the rapid ticking sound of the instrument’s laser zapping rocks to reveal details of their structure and composition. Such information will help scientists as they search Jezero Crater for signs of ancient microscopic life, taking samples of rock and sediment to be returned to Earth by future missions.
The SuperCam sounds were part of a series of systems checks the rover has gone through, ranging from the unstowing of Perseverance’s massive robotic arm to making its first weather observations using the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer.
The rover has also been searching for a suitable airfield for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to attempt its first flight tests. Now that the right spot has been found, the Perseverance and Ingenuity teams are making plans for the rover to deploy the helicopter, which will have 30 Martian days, or sols (31 Earth days), to complete up to five test flights.
And then the hunt for ancient life will begin in earnest, with Perseverance exploring terrain once thought to be covered with water. Between the rover’s 19 cameras and its two microphones, the experience will be packed with sights and sounds. For Verma, who has helped “drive” NASA’s last four Mars rovers, planning their routes and transmitting instructions so they can take a day’s drive across uncharted terrain, the audio is more than just cool.
“The variations between Earth and Mars – we have a feeling for that visually,” she said. “But sound is a whole different dimension: to see the differences between Earth and Mars, and experience that environment more closely.”
More About the Mission
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
For more about Perseverance: