Rovers have already given us the ability to see and touch, and sensors provide taste and smell. The only part we’ve been missing is the ability to hear on Mars, but that will change with Perseverance! The new rover has been outfitted with two microphones in order to hear the red planet. Two other rovers in the past have had microphones on them but one of the missions failed and the microphones on the other mission were never turned on.
For the Perseverance mission, listening is a top priority, and the rover already recorded its entry and landing sequence. In the recording of the landing you can hear the friction from the atmosphere, wind, and dust displaced by landing. While it is an impressive feat, the sound it collected was unusable. It is also able to record sounds from the surface of Mars. This data will also help scientists study rocks and soil. Specifically it listens for pops caused with the laser on SuperCam when it probes rocks. When the laser hits the rock, a small part of it vaporizes into plasma. The heat and vibrations create shockwaves that sound like popping. The camera is able to read the gas for its chemical composition. The popping sound can tell scientists about the mass and makeup of the rock. The intensity of the pop can reveal the rock’s hardness. While that information might seem trivial, the hardness can provide the rock’s geological context, where it came from. For example, the sound can determine whether rock was formed in a lake, lava, or wind, and this information can be used to tell us the history of Mars. This can all be found out without ever having to touch anything!
The rover can record up to 35 minutes of sounds. This will all be used to gather scientific information, get a better understanding of martian weather, and run better diagnostics on the rover itself. With this new way of collecting data, our understanding of Mars will expand and missions could potentially last longer with help of better diagnostic checks. NASA receives more data from Mars every day, so keep watching for their biggest discoveries! For those interested in hearing the sounds of Mars for yourself I have left the link below.