Listen To The Sound Of Perseverance Driving On Mars

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover driving on March 7, 2021. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One month ago Perseverance landed on Mars, and it has already started exploring Jezero Crater. Among its impressive suite of instruments, the NASA rover is equipped with microphones and has delivered to us the first recorded sounds of Mars. The space agency has now released some new sounds.

Perseverance is heard clanging, whirring, and squeaking as the six metal wheels go over rocks. The rover drove for about 27.3 meters (90 feet) on March 7, which was the 16th Martian day Perseverance has spent on the Red Planet (Sol 16).

“A lot of people, when they see the images, don’t appreciate that the wheels are metal. When you’re driving with these wheels on rocks, it’s actually very noisy,” Vandi Verma, a senior engineer and rover driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “The variations between Earth and Mars – we have a feeling for that visually, but sound is a whole different dimension: to see the differences between Earth and Mars, and experience that environment more closely.”

The audio was recorded by Perseverance’s entry, descent, and landing (EDL) microphone. This is an off-the-shelf piece of equipment that was added to give another sensorial experience to the landing of the spacecraft, and it is now being used to capture the sounds of the surface and of the rover’s activities.

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NASA has released two recordings. One is 85 seconds long with the highlights of the drive – this one has been edited to filter out some of the noise. If this is not enough for you, you can bask in the full 16 minutes and 21 seconds of the version that is completely raw and unfiltered.   

“If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow,” explained Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020’s EDL Camera and Microphone subsystem. “But if you take a minute to consider what you’re hearing and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”

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And while most of the noises are what we expect from the motion of the wheels and suspension on the rough terrain, the high-pitched scratching noise is unclear. The engineering team is actually evaluating if it is electromagnetic interference from an electric box, or maybe something else related to the motion of Perseverance.

The rover has been very busy over the last 28 days. Perseverance has sent back the sounds of its SuperCam firing lasers, tested its robotic arm, and performed some weather observations (including spotting its first dust devil). It has also found a suitable spot for Ingenuity, the Martian helicopter, which will soon attempt its five test flights.

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