Looking for something to take your mind off of the constant dread of loadshedding? How about a 16 minute audio clip of the Perseverance rover travelling across the Jezero Crater on Mars.
On 7th March the rover travelled 27.3m across the crater it now calls home and NASA was able to record the audio from that trip using an off-the-shelf microphone.
The microphone was intended to provide audio during Perseverance’s landing on 18th February and while it wasn’t tested for capturing audio on the surface of Mars but it’s clearly still able to do just that.
The audio clip is, ummm, noisy. This is partly because the wheels of the rover are metal and partly thanks to what NASA calls a “high-pitched scratching noise”.
“Perseverance’s engineering team continues to evaluate the source of the scratching noise, which may either be electromagnetic interference from one of the rover’s electronics boxes or interactions between the mobility system and the Martian surface. The EDL [entry, descent and landing] microphone was not intended for surface operations and had limited testing in this configuration before launch,” explained NASA.
Despite the cacophony of metal on Martian soil, it’s quite spectacular to be hearing audio that was recorded on a planet 245.43 million kilometres away from us.
If you don’t have 16 minutes to spare, NASA also created a highlight reel of sorts which contains edited audio in a bid to filter out some of the noise heard in the original recording.
If the audio sounds a bit odd, there is a reason for that, or rather three reasons.
The Martian atmosphere is very different to Earth’s atmosphere and that changes how sound waves behave. The speed at which sound travels, the volume of the sound and the overall sound quality are all affected by the Martian atmosphere. NASA has a wonderful blog post explaining exactly how sound differs on our celestial neighbour here.
That blog post is also worth a listen as it has three playlists where you can hear the difference in sound on Earth and Mars.
Perseverance is currently on the hunt for an “airfield” where it’s drone buddy Ingenuity can attempt its first flight tests. The drone (which is itself an incredible feat of engineering) will conduct up to five test flights over 30 sols or 31 days on Earth.
Once those tests are complete, the hunt for signs of ancient life on Mars will begin in earnest and with Perseverance’s 19 cameras and two microphones, we could be seeing a lot more of this exploration and what discoveries are made.