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Image from Ingenuity’s successful fifth flight (May 7)
Image from Ingenuity’s successful fifth flight (May 7)Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA records historic audio from the surface of Mars

‘This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere’

Late last month, NASA shared the first-ever aerial colour photo of Mars, captured by the space agency’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter. Now, it has shared groundbreaking audio from the same expedition, capturing the sound of the helicopter as it flies above the Martian surface.

Recorded via a microphone on board NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover (which was launched in 2020, and touched down on the planet’s surface in February this year) the audio marks the first time that a spacecraft has recorded the sounds of a separate spacecraft on another planet.

In a video released by NASA, space fans can hear wind blowing across Jezero Crater, before the hum of the helicopter’s blades as it performs its fourth flight, taking off 80 metres away. 

Initially, the rover mission wasn’t sure if the microphone would pick up the sounds, thanks to the ambient noise and the muffling effect of Mars’ thin atmosphere. “This is a very good surprise,” says David Mimoun, a professor of planetary science at Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse.

 “We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly. We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance.”

“This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere.”

The first-of-its-kind recording also adds a “new dimension” to space exploration, the NASA video explains, adding: “As a mechanic listens to a car, engineers can now hear how their machinery is performing on another planet.”

Back in 2018 — after Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched a cherry red Tesla roadster into space — Dazed further explored what living on Mars would really look and sound like. Read that here, and watch the video from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover below.