NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded the first audio clips captured on the surface of Mars, sending the throaty sounds of the gusting wind back to Earth on the Red Planet.
The first audio of its kind was released on Monday, along with some amazing new video footage of the rover as it descended and landed last Thursday. The images are among the most sophisticated to date taken from Mars and offer never-before-seen views of the rover approaching its landing site.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Missions Directorate, said the new images and audio are “the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit.
The audio clips were captured by two microphones mounted on Perseverance. In one, a slight hum can be heard in the background, which Dave Gruel, the chief engineer of Perseverance’s camera and microphone subsystem, said came from the rover itself. But about 10 seconds later, the microphone picked up the low rumble of a gust of wind, marking the first sounds recorded from the Martian surface.
“Imagine sitting on the surface of Mars and listening to the surroundings,” Gruel said at a press briefing Monday. “It’s cool, really cool. Overwhelming, if you will.
Gruel added that the rover will continue to capture the sounds of Mars as the Perseverance mission begins. “We rely on these two instruments to record some really amazing sounds on the surface of Mars,” he said.
The recently released video footage included views from several different cameras, including three atop the vehicle that recorded the spacecraft as it plunged into the Martian atmosphere.
Two other cameras on the rover documented the crucial stages of the descent: the deployment of the spacecraft’s parachute, the dropping of its protective rear hull, and an aerial crane lowering Perseverance to the ground. Another camera at the bottom of the rover captured stunning images of the desolate, rusty-colored terrain of Mars until the rover’s wheels hit the ground.
The videos offer a rare first-person glimpse of what it’s like to settle on the surface of another planet. As the Perseverance rover nears its landing site in Jezero Crater, on-board cameras have recorded spectacular photos of the crater-scarred, dune-filled view of Mars.
“It is unlikely at this point in my career that I will pilot a spacecraft to the surface of Mars, but when you see these images I think you will feel like you have a glimpse of what a landing successfully in Jezero Crater with perseverance, ”said Matt Wallace, deputy project leader for the Perseverance mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, successfully performing one of the most delicate landing maneuvers ever attempted in NASA history.
Jessica Samuels, a systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the rover has been performing well so far. NASA will check the spacecraft’s various instruments over the next few weeks and download new flight software so the rover can start driving on the surface and collecting data.
The car-sized robotic explorer is designed to scour the Martian surface for signs of ancient microbial life. During its two-year expedition, the rover will also collect rock and sediment samples from Mars that will be returned to Earth on subsequent missions.
The rover’s landing site, Jezero Crater, is a 28-mile-wide basin that lies just north of the Martian equator. Scientists believe the region was once home to an ancient river delta billions of years ago.
Gruel said mission controllers were delighted with the first images returned by Perseverance. He said the rover captured more than 23,000 images, more than 30 gigabytes of information, as it descended towards the Martian surface.
“People were jumping up and down, dizzy and ecstatic,” Gruel said. “It was a great feeling.”
And this early bounty from Perseverance is just a glimpse of what might be in store, Zurbuchen said.
“Stay with us,” he said. “There is a lot more astonishment to come.”