KEY POINTS

  • NASA shared the first audio recording of laser shots on Mars
  • In it, one can hear the laser hitting the target
  • The sound helped determine the target's composition

New sounds captured by the Perseverance rover reveal the first zapping sounds of its laser in action. The Perseverance rover has been sending back incredible data, but its mission on the red planet has only just begun.

In a media briefing on Wednesday, mission team members shared audio recordings captured by the microphone on the Perseverance rover's SuperCam instrument. One of the recordings is particularly interesting because it captured the sound of SuperCam's laser hitting a rock.

In the recording, one can hear about 30 zaps as the SuperCam's laser hits its target called Máaz, which is the Navajo word for Mars. It was recorded on March 2 with some of the zaps being louder than others, NASA said.

SuperCam is equipped with a laser, camera and spectrometers to help determine the chemical composition of rocks. However, the variations heard in the sound clip can also reveal important things about the target like how hard it actually is.

"If we tap on a surface that is hard, we will not hear the same sound as when we fire on a surface that is soft," SuperCam team member, Naomi Murdoch of the National Higher French Institute of Aeronautics and Space, in Toulouse, France, explained as per BBC.

"Take for example chalk and marble. These two materials have an identical chemical composition (calcium carbonate), but very different physical properties," she added.

Together with the other SuperCam data, including a close-up image of Máaz shared by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the team determined that it actually has a basaltic composition.

First Recordings

The team also shared audio recordings that captured the wind on Mars. One of them was captured on Feb. 19, not long after the rover's landing. It was still a little muffled because the microphone was still stowed, NASA explained. The other was captured on Feb. 22.

Earlier, NASA had also shared stunning footage of the rover's landing as well as its first panorama from the landing site.

Firsts On Mars

So far, the rover is undergoing tests and checkouts, but it is expected to demonstrate first-of-its-kind hardware with the Ingenuity helicopter soon, NASA Spaceflight said. According to the outlet, it will be the first demonstration of a non-rocket-powered flight outside Earth.

Starting with 20 to 30 seconds of flight, Ingenuity will fly farther and for longer periods, paving the way for such flight missions in the future.

With its ultimate mission to search for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars, it is also set to be the first mission to collect and stow Martian rock samples for another mission to collect and return to Earth.

SuperCam is packed with spectrometers, a laser, and an audio recording device to analyse the chemistry, mineralogy and molecular composition of Mars' famously red surface SuperCam is packed with spectrometers, a laser, and an audio recording device to analyse the chemistry, mineralogy and molecular composition of Mars' famously red surface Photo: CNES / VR2Planet 2021 / Handout