Listen to the first sounds sent back from Mars

23 Feb 2021

NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars. Image: NASA

Perseverance has transmitted the first audio recordings back to Earth from Mars, and NASA has made them publicly available.

Last week, NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars. It travelled 472m kilometres to arrive on the Red Planet, a journey that lasted 203 days. Since landing, Perseverance has beamed back images of its new surroundings to Earth and a microphone attached to the rover has provided the first ever audio recording from Mars.

The microphone didn’t capture usable data during the rover’s descent, NASA said, but the commercial off-the-shelf device survived the descent and obtained sounds from Mars’ Jezero Crater on Saturday (20 February).

NASA has now released the audio recorded by Perseverance through SoundCloud. Listeners can hear a breeze as well as mechanical sounds of the rover operating on the Martian surface.

“Imagine yourself sitting on the surface of Mars and listening to the surroundings,” Dave Gruel, the lead engineer for the rover’s camera and microphones, said in a press briefing yesterday (22 February). “It’s cool, really neat. Overwhelming, if you will.”

Gruel added that we can expect to hear more “really amazing sounds” from the planet’s surface.

Perseverance’s first panorama

NASA has also released the first panorama images and videos of Perseverance’s landing location. The space agency said that the rover is currently undergoing an extensive check of all its systems and instruments.

“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

“It should become mandatory viewing for young women and men who not only want to explore other worlds and build the spacecraft that will take them there, but also want to be part of the diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals in our future.”

The video begins after Perseverance entered the planet’s upper atmosphere at 12,500kph and captures the rover’s parachute deploying.

It also shows the heat shield dropping away after protecting Perseverance from scorching temperatures during its entry into the Mars atmosphere. The rover’a aluminium wheels eventually touch down on the planet’s surface at 2.6kph and the descent stage climbs and accelerates away in a pre-planned manoeuvre.

“For those who wonder how you land on Mars, or why it is so difficult, or how cool it would be to do so – you need look no further,” said Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator.

“Perseverance is just getting started and already has provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet.”

So what’s next? In the coming days, Perseverance is set to take weather observations of Mars and a 360-degree panorama of Jezero will be transmitted. According to NASA, the panorama will “provide the highest-resolution look at the road ahead”.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021