What does space travel sound like? If you're NASA's next-gen Perseverance rover on the way to Mars, it sounds like a gentle whirring.
The rover is equipped with a microphone designed to capture the sounds of entry, descent and landing (EDL) once it reaches the red planet in February 2021. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released an audio file on Wednesday that gives a sense of what the rover is hearing during interplanetary travel.
The 60-second SoundCloud clip comes from Oct. 19 during checks of the rover's EDL camera and microphone system.
That whirring sound is coming from the rover's heat rejection fluid pump. "Located at the rear-starboard side of the Perseverance, the pump is part of the rover's thermal system, which will help maintain operational temperatures for vehicle components on even the coldest of winter nights," JPL said in a statement on Wednesday.
"With apologies to the person who came up with the slogan for Alien, I guess you could say that in space no one may be able to hear you scream, but they can hear your heat rejection fluid pump," said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for the rover's EDL Camera and Microphone subsystem at JPL. Gruel said the mic was able to pick up the pump's murmurs through mechanical vibration.
The Perseverance team is excited by this minor buzz because it means the mic system is working properly and should be able to record what Gruel describes as "the sound and fury of a Mars landing."
Perseverance will embark on a cutting-edge mission to seek out signs of ancient microbial life and collect rock and dust samples for later return to Earth. It also carries an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity.
Circle Feb. 18 on your calendar for the rover's date with its Martian destiny. If all goes well, we could get some spectacular audio of its arrival.