Nasa’s mission control for Perseverance rover on Tuesday released three audio files recorded by a bundle of instruments, known as SuperCam, installed on the vehicle which is looking for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. The SuperCam was developed jointly by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), New Mexico, and a consortium of French research laboratories. The audio files, which were first delivered to the operation centre of the French space agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), in Toulouse, include sounds of wind and rhythmic tapping sound of laser strikes on Mars.
“The sounds acquired are remarkable quality,” Naomi Murdoch, a research scientist at the ISAE-SUPAERO aerospace engineering school in Toulouse, was quoted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as saying. “It’s incredible to think that we’re going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars!” she added.
The first audio file, obtained about 18 hours after landing, captured the faint sounds of Martian wind since the rover’s mast remained stowed on its deck. According to Nasa, the muffled sound is “little like the sound one hears listening to a seashell or having a hand cupped over the ear.” The second file also has the sound of wind from Mars, recorded on Perseverance’s fourth Martian day, and is “more audible, especially around the 20-second mark.”
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The US space agency said that the third file includes the rhythmic zapping sounds of a laser impacting a rock target 30 times at a distance of about 10 feet. Some zaps sound are slightly louder than others and the variations in the intensity will provide information on the physical structure of the targets, such as their relative hardness or the presence of weathering coatings.
“This information will be essential when determining which samples to cache and ultimately return to Earth through our groundbreaking Mars Sample Return Campaign, which will be one of the most ambitious feats ever undertaken by humanity,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at Nasa headquarters, said in a statement.
Last week, the Perseverance rover performed its first drive on Mars that lasted about 33 minutes, covering 21.3 metres across the Martian surface. It served as a mobility test to assure the mission controllers that the drive system is good to go for surface operations following its safe landing on Mars on February 18. The rover will be used to explore the rocks in Jezero crater, an ancient lakebed that dried up as the climate of the Red planet changed, and return samples through future missions.