In precisely one month, NASA will look to make history and attempt to land the Perseverance rover on Mars. The rover is carrying with it a number of tools and technologies for additional exploration when it eventually lands on the big red planet. One of those tools is a special microphone located on its SuperCam instrument, which NASA will use to record natural sounds on Mars.
When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars, which is scheduled to take place on February 18, the first manoeuvre it will need to make is descending to the surface of the plane. This process will be captured by the experimental Entry, Descent, and Landing [EDL] microphone, which NASA described as a regular ‘off-the-shelf’ microphone that has been equipped with a special grid to keep dust out.
The EDL mic will be used to capture the sounds of the pyrotechnic devices firing to release the parachute, the Martian winds, wheels crunching down on the Martian surface, and the roaring engines of the descent vehicle as it flies safely away from the rover.
Because NASA has never successfully used microphones on Mars before, this experiment may yield some surprises. Scientists are trying to predict as well as they can how things will sound, but they won’t know for sure until Perseverance is on the Red Planet.
How does sound change on Mars? I’m taking two mics with me, so we’ll soon find out. Try this new interactive to preview the difference: https://t.co/3TcSQvF7fa 🎧 Once I land, we can compare notes. pic.twitter.com/nHqGK7yEVJ
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) January 13, 2021
“With the microphones onboard Perseverance, we will add a fifth sense to Mars exploration. It will open a new area of [scientific] investigation for both the atmosphere and the surface,” said Baptiste Chide, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.