The Perseverance rover has been on Mars for a month, which works out to about 27 Martian sols. NASA is still conducting system tests on the vehicle, but it’s started to roll around the surface in recent days. This is the first Mars rover with a microphone, and it captured the eerie sounds of Perseverance driving over the regolith during one of NASA’s tests.
NASA has released two versions of the audio. Below is the processed version with just the “highlights” chosen by the Perseverance team. This version has the background noise filtered out to make the thumps and grinding of the wheels easier to hear. It’s easy to forget Perseverance’s wheels are metal. NASA had to redesign the wheels to be more durable because the sharp Martian rocks have really done a number on the older Curiosity rover. Curiosity’s wheels are full of holes, but this has not affected the rover’s mobility as of yet.
You can also check out the full, unedited 16-minute version of the recording. This version has a louder scratching sound, the origin of which is still up for debate. The engineering team is currently assessing whether this is electronic feedback from one of the rover’s instruments or a sound from the environment caused by some part of Perseverance scraping the ground.
The microphones were designed to operate during descent and landing, and NASA did only cursory ground testing on Earth. So, there could be issues with interference. Previously, NASA used a separate microphone on the rover’s SuperCam instrument to record the whooshing of Martian wind and clicking from the instrument’s laser.
Recording sounds on Mars is just one of many things Perseverance is getting up to on Mars. The team is testing all the rover’s systems before the search for life begins in earnest. The team has also scouted an open area where Perseverance can deploy the Ingenuity helicopter. This vehicle, built with off-the-shelf hardware that probably won’t last long on Mars. But it can still make history as the first flying probe on another planet. After deploying, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian sols to complete up to five test flights. Ingenuity is not essential to Perseverance’s mission, but it could pave the way for future robotic explorers in the skies of Mars.
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