On Monday, the US space agency NASA released the first sound from Mars, a faint crackling recording of a gust of wind caught by the Perseverance rover.
NASA also released the first video of last week’s landing of the rover, which is tasked with searching for signs of past life on the red planet.
A microphone did not work during the rover’s descent to the surface, but it could capture sound when it landed on Mars.
NASA engineers played a 60-second recording.
“What you hear there for 10 seconds is a real gust of wind on the surface of Mars that is picked up by the microphone and sent back to us here on earth,” says Dave Gruel, senior engineer for the camera and microphone system on endurance.
The HD video, which lasts for three minutes and 25 seconds, shows the deployment of a red-and-white parachute with a canopy of 70.5 feet (21.5 meters wide).
It shows that the heat shield loses after protecting endurance during its entry into the Martian atmosphere and the rover’s touch in a cloud of dust in the Jezero crater just north of the Red Planet equator.
“This is the first time we’re ever been able to capture an event like landing on Mars,” said Michael Watkins, head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is handling the mission.
“These are really great videos,” Watkins said. “We watched them all weekend.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Assistant Director of Science, said the video of the descent of endurance is “the closest you can get to landing on Mars without wearing a pressure suit.”
‘Endurance is healthy’
Jessica Samuels, Perseverance’s surface assignment manager, said that the rover worked as expected so far and engineers performed an intensive inspection of their systems and instruments.
“I’m happy to report that endurance is healthy and continue with activities as we have planned them,” Samuels said.
She said the team was preparing for a flight of rovers’ small helicopter drone named Ingenuity.
“The team is still evaluating,” she said. “We have not locked a site yet.”
The inventor will attempt the first powered flight on another planet and must achieve lift in an atmosphere that is only one percent of the Earth’s density.
Endurance was launched on July 30, 2020 and landed on the surface of Mars on Thursday.
Its main assignment will be just over two years, but it will probably remain operationally far beyond that. Its predecessor Curiosity still operates eight years after landing on Mars.
In the coming years, perseverance will try to collect 30 stone and soil samples in sealed tubes that will be sent back to earth sometime in the 2030s for laboratory analysis.
About the size of an SUV, the boat weighs a ton, is equipped with a seven-foot robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones and a suite of advanced instruments.
Mars was warmer and wetter in its distant past, and while previous exploration has determined that the planet was habitable, endurance has the task of determining whether it was actually inhabited.
It will start drilling its first samples in the summer and along the way it will use new instruments to search for organic material, map chemical composition and zap stones with a laser to study the steam.
An experiment involves an instrument that can convert oxygen from Mars, primarily a carbon dioxide atmosphere, much like a plant.
The idea is that eventually people will not have to carry their own oxygen on hypothetical future journeys, which is crucial for both rocket fuel and breathing.
The rover is only the fifth to set its wheels on Mars. The achievement was not achieved until 1997, and all have been American.
The United States is preparing for a possible human mission to the planet, although the planning is still very preliminary.