NASA releases sounds of laser zapping rocks on Mars

Written on 03/12/2021

The U.S space agency NASA has released audio of Martian winds and the sound of a laser aimed at a rock, all captured by the Perseverance rover as it makes the first use of its sophisticated scientific instruments.

The rover's SuperCam, which the Los Alamos National Labratory in New Mexico and France's National Center for Space Studies developed, made the recordings. NASA released them Wednesday.

The instrument is mounted on the rover’s mast and features a 5.6-kilogram sensor head that can perform five types of analyses to study Mars’ geology and help scientists choose which rocks the rover should sample in its search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The probe fired laser pulses at a target rock about three meters away, which can be heard on the recordings as clicking sounds. Scientists will be able to study the variations in the intensity of the sounds to obtain information about the physical structure of the targets and whether they are good candidates for closer analysis.

The recordings are part of system health checks being carried out to make sure all instruments are functioning properly.

Since the automobile-size rover landed on Mars on February 18, it has been performing health checks on all of its systems and subsystems. Early data from SuperCam tests – including sounds from the Red Planet – have been intriguing.

Scientists hope to find biosignatures embedded in sediment samples that Perseverance is designed to extract from Martian rock for analysis back on Earth.