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Perseverance rover measures speed of sound on Mars for the first time

Using a laser to strike rocks and a built-in microphone, NASA’s Perseverance rover has measured changes in the speed of sound on Mars due to temperature affecting the atmosphere

Space 9 March 2022

This illustration of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover indicates the placement of the spacecraft's two microphones. The microphone on the mast is part of the SuperCam science instrument. The microphone on the side of the rover was intended to capture the sounds of entry, descent, and landing for public engagement. A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

An illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The speed of sound on Mars has been measured for the first time using microphones on NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Baptiste Chide at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and his colleagues recorded sounds from the Mars’s Jezero crater last year, such as a laser striking rocks, which generates a shockwave. They also captured the frequency shift of the Ingenuity helicopter’s blades as it moved through the Martian atmosphere after launching from Perseverance.

The laser and microphone aboard Perseverance were precisely synchronised, …