Data from the powerful science tool includes sounds of its laser zapping a rock in order to test what it’s made of.
The first readings from the SuperCam instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover have arrived on Earth. SuperCam was developed jointly by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and a consortium of French research laboratories under the auspices of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The instrument delivered data to the French Space Agency’s operations center in Toulouse that includes the first audio of laser zaps on another planet.
“It is amazing to see SuperCam working so well on Mars,” said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator for Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “When we first dreamed up this instrument eight years ago, we worried that we were being way too ambitious. Now it is up there working like a charm.”
“The sounds acquired are remarkable quality,” says Naomi Murdoch, a research scientist and lecturer at the ISAE-SUPAERO aerospace engineering school in Toulouse. “It’s incredible to think that we’re going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars!”
On March 9, the mission released three SuperCam audio files. Obtained only about 18 hours after landing, when the mast remained stowed on the rover deck, the first file captures the faint sounds of Martian wind.
The wind is more audible, especially around the 20-second mark, in the second sound file, recorded on the rover’s fourth Martian day, or sol.
SuperCam’s third file, from Sol 12, includes the zapping sounds of the laser impacting a rock target 30 times at a distance of about 10 feet (3.1 meters). Some zaps sound slightly louder than others, providing information on the physical structure of the targets, such as its relative hardness.
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