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.
On Wednesday, NASA released "the first acoustic recording of laser impacts on a rock target on Mars." The recording comes from a microphone on the rover and was captured on March 2. The short audio sequence features the sound of 30 impacts. 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 yet, safely landed on Mars in the Jezero Crater in February and has been, including its first images, first drives and the first movements of its robotic arm.
The laser zaps are another landmark in the rover's career as a Martian audio engineer. The machine already recorded, along with the whirring sounds of its own machinery. The rover's microphones are adding a new layer to both science operations and public outreach as we listen in on the red planet.