Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument recorded the first acoustic audio of laser impacts on a rock target on Mars on March 2, 2021, the 12th sol (Martian day). According to a lot of sci-fi fans, space lasers sound like “pew pew pew.” According to a NASA recording from the Perseverance rover on Mars, it’s more like a gentle ticking sound. The sounds of 30 impacts are heard, some slightly louder than others. Give it a listen.
Scientists will use data from the laser, part of the rover’s SuperCam instrument, to learn more about the geology of Mars. “Variations in the intensity of the zapping sounds will provide information on the physical structure of the targets, such as its relative hardness or the presence of weathering coatings,” said NASA.
SuperCam is mounted on the rover’s “head,” on the vehicle’s mast. “Using a laser beam will help researchers identify minerals that are beyond the reach of the rover’s robotic arm or in areas too steep for the rover to go,” NASA said. The rock target heard in the recording was about 10 feet (3 meters) away.
Perseverance, NASA’s most advanced rover to date, landed safely in the Jezero Crater on Mars in February and has since delivered dozens of new firsts, including its first images, drives, and robotic arm movements.
The laser zaps are another landmark in the rover’s career as a Martian audio engineer. A wind gust on Mars, as well as the whirring sounds of its own machinery, were already recorded by the machine. As we listen in on Mars, the rover’s microphones add a new layer to both science operations and public outreach.
You’ve heard recordings from the rover – now try this interactive and listen to how sounds from Earth would change on Mars. You can even record your own greeting and hear how you’d sound on Mars.