NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Will Record the Sounds of the Red Planet

Thursday, 04 August 2016 - 2:28PM
Space
Mars
Thursday, 04 August 2016 - 2:28PM
NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Will Record the Sounds of the Red Planet
When the Mars 2020 rover ventures to the Red Planet in a few years, it will provide us with plenty of scientific intel, as well as "some of the most exciting imagery... a planetary mission has ever provided." But now, NASA has decided to break ground in an entirely different way, by recording the sounds of Mars and sending them back to Earth for all of us to hear.

In 2020, NASA plans to send a rover to investigate Mars, in preparation for a manned mission within the next decade or two. It will bring several scientific instruments, including a terraforming device, as well as the SuperCam, a laser-firing camera that will take pictures of the surface, determine its chemical composition, and provide mineralogy data. But recently, the team also decided to add microphones in the cameras, which will continue rolling after the rover has landed on the Red Planet. 

Opening quote
"We'll hear wheels turning, the drill drilling, probably hear the rover's mast moving," deputy project manager Matthew Wallace, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space.com. "Wind interactions, at least fairly high-speed winds - I would think we'd hear those too."
Closing quote

The microphone will capture the sounds of both the rover's touchdown and the sounds of the planet in general. And since it's directly connected to the SuperCam, it will continue recording while the camera takes images and records scientific data.


Opening quote
"So when they actually fire the laser and collect spectral data, they'll also be able to collect sound data at the same time," Wallace said.
Closing quote

Wallace admits that this is mostly a "public outreach" initiative, meaning it's almost scientifically useless. But not completely, since it might allow NASA to hear the first signs of problems in the hardware, which could allow them to improve the engineering of equipment they send to Mars. Plus, it's always useful to have more information about other planets, no matter how silly it might seem. 

Opening quote
"You can hear very well things that originate within 10 to 20 feet [3 to 6 meters] of the microphone," Wallace said. "We're going to hear a lot of great stuff."
Closing quote
Science
NASA
Space
Mars