On February 18, a little over a month from now, NASA’s Perseverance rover will land on the Red Planet, bringing with it new tools and technologies for additional exploration. Among the items carried by the rover is a microphone located on its SuperCam instrument — and NASA plans to use this to record natural sounds on Mars.
When Perseverance reaches Mars next month, it will begin its descent to the surface, a process that will be captured by a secondary microphone called the EDL. NASA describes the microphone as experimental, explaining that it is an ordinary off-the-shelf microphone equipped with a special grid to keep dust out.
Once on the ground, the rover’s SuperCam microphone will capture sound clips of the Martian environment, as well as the rover’s tools at work. This will be a milestone moment for humanity, but the audio likely won’t represent exactly what humans would hear if they were physically located on that planet. This has to do with the Martian atmosphere’s density, composition, and the planet’s cold temperatures.
Microphones have never successfully been used on Mars, meaning there is still much that is unknown about the future recordings and how the environment may influence them. Regardless, the microphone presents an entirely new way to explore the Red Planet and learn about its environment, not to mention the novelty of getting to hear ambient noises from another planet.
Talking about the tech is NASA JPL’s postdoctoral planetary science researcher Baptiste Chide, who said:
It is stunning all the science we can get with an instrument as simple as a microphone on Mars … Recording audible sounds on Mars is a unique experience. With the microphones onboard Perseverance, we will add a fifth sense to Mars exploration. It will open a new area of science investigation for both the atmosphere and the surface.