NASA’s next rover is not silent during its long journey to the Red Planet.
Microphone on board Mars 2020 rover Persistence, which launches on July 30 and will reach February 18, 2021, captures the rotating sound emitted by the robot’s car-sized “heat dissipation fluid pump”, reveals a recently released NASA audio file
This microphone was installed to record the sounds of entering, disembarking and landing the Permanence (EDL), “seven minutes of horror“a sequence that will end with a rocket celestial crane lowering the rover to the Martian surface by cables. The Mars 2020 team turned on the microphone on Oct. 1
Pictured: NASA’s Mars rover mission to Mars to the Red Planet
This sound did not travel through the vacuum of space; sound waves need an environment through which to propagate. In this case, the waves traveled through the body of Permanence, causing mechanical vibrations recorded by the microphone.
“With the apology of the man who came up with the slogan ‘Alien,’ I guess you could say that no one in space can hear you screaming, but you can hear your heat-pump,” Dave Gruel, host Mars 2020 EDL Camera and Microphone Subsystem Engineer said in a statement on Wednesday (November 18).
“As great as it is to get some audio for spacecraft in flight, the sound file is more important,” Gruel added. “That means our system is working and ready to try to record some of the sound and fury of landing on Mars.”
The ongoing heat pump is part of Perseverance’s thermal system, which will keep the rover and its instruments warm on Mars by circulating heat generated by the mission’s nuclear battery, NASA officials said in a statement.
Permanence will explore the floor of the 28-kilometer (45-kilometer) Jezero crater, which hid a lake and a river delta in the ancient past. The rover will characterize the geology of the object, will look for signs from antiquity Martian life and cash samples for future returns to Earth, among other tasks.
Permanence will also test technologies for future exploration of the Red Planet. For example, one of the rover’s instruments, called MOXIE (short for “Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment”), will generate oxygen from the thin, carbon-dominated Martian atmosphere. Such equipment, if increased, could help humanity establish itself on the Red Planet, NASA officials said.
Also, flying to Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance is tiny a helicopter called ingenuity. If all goes according to plan, 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) a helicopter will make several short test flights on the Red Planet, becoming the first rotorcraft to ever fly an alien sky.
The EDL microphone, built by the Danish company DPA Microphones, is not the only Perseverance audio equipment. The rover carries a second microphone designed to record sounds emitted by its rock instrument SuperCam.
If these microphones work, they will be the first to record real sound on Mars. (NASA’s InSight Launcher Shoots “sounds” of the Martian wind shortly after touching it in 2018, but this record processes data collected from an air pressure sensor and a seismometer.)
But the new microphones are not the first to fly with Red Planet’s mission. NASA’s Mars Polar Lander spacecraft, which crashed while trying to touch in December 1999, had a microphone. And NASA’s Phoenix lander, which completed its 2008 hunting mission, had a built-in microphone in the landing chamber. But the Phoenix team has never included this tool, out of concern that its use may complicate the landing process.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.