NASA has had a consistent robotic presence on Mars for several decades now, and with each new generation of rovers, new discoveries become possible. The Perseverance rover that landed on Mars last month is the most capable piece of machinery ever sent to the Red Planet, and it’s helping NASA to see and hear things it’s never heard before. One of those things — as simple as it might seem — is hearing what the rover actually sounds like as it travels over the dusty surface of the planet.
Perseverance captured the sounds of its own wheels and legs squeaking and groaning as the robot traveled over the rocky ground. The space agency released this audio publicly, and now you can listen to it for yourself. The clip comes in two versions. The first is a huge 16-minute recording that is raw and unfiltered. There’s a lot of noise and high-pitched artifacts to deal with, but you can still hear the rover’s movements pretty clearly. The second is a 90-second compilation of the more interesting sounds from the longer recording, and it’s been filtered and edited to lessen the noise and offer a less messy sound profile.
The audio that the rover captured is special for a number of reasons, but it was only made possible thanks to a microphone that was built specifically to capture audio during the rover’s descent and landing.
More than 16 minutes of sounds from Perseverance’s 90-foot (27.3-meter) drive on March 7 were captured by Perseverance’s entry, descent, and landing (EDL) microphone, which remains operational on the rover after its historic touchdown on Feb. 18. The off-the-shelf microphone was added to the rover to help take the public along for the ride during touchdown, but mission members have been eager to hear the sounds from the surface, too.
It’s pretty incredible that the microphone being used is a standard model and not some high-tech invention meant specifically for listening in on Mars. In any case, it worked pretty well, and you can listen to both clips right here.
Full 16-minute version:
90-second edited version:
Okay, so it kinda sounds like someone strapped a microphone to the underside of a slow dune buggy, but that’s sort of what you’d want to hear if you were listening in to a rover cruising across Mars, right? NASA’s team seems to agree.
“If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow,” Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020’s EDL Camera and Microphone subsystem, said in a statement. “But if you take a minute to consider what you’re hearing and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”
As the rover continues to get its legs going it won’t be long before we can enjoy some new scientific discoveries from the Red Planet. Perhaps we’ll even get some more audio along with it!