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Perseverance Records Sound of Its Rock-Zapping Laser Instrument | Planetary Science, Space Exploration

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Early data from the SuperCam instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover — including the first audio of laser zaps on another planet — are intriguing, according to the mission’s scientists.

This mosaic (upper right) shows a close-up view of the rock target named ‘Yeehgo’ from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The component images were taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) on March 7, 2021. To be compatible with the rover’s software, ‘Yeehgo’ is an alternative spelling of ‘Yéigo,’ the Navajo word for diligent. The target is 3.325 m (10.9 feet) from the rover. Each of the two images in the mosaic shows a field of view 6.2 cm (2.5 inches) in diameter. Perseverance’s Navigation Cameras (Nav Cam) and Mastcam-Z instrument also took images of that area at the same time to provide multiple views of the rock target. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / LANL / CNES / CNRS / ASU / MSSS.

This mosaic (upper right) shows a close-up view of the rock target named ‘Yeehgo’ from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The component images were taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) on March 7, 2021. To be compatible with the rover’s software, ‘Yeehgo’ is an alternative spelling of ‘Yéigo,’ the Navajo word for diligent. The target is 3.325 m (10.9 feet) from the rover. Each of the two images in the mosaic shows a field of view 6.2 cm (2.5 inches) in diameter. Perseverance’s Navigation Cameras (Nav Cam) and Mastcam-Z instrument also took images of that area at the same time to provide multiple views of the rock target. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / LANL / CNES / CNRS / ASU / MSSS.

“I want to extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to our international partners at CNES and the SuperCam team for being a part of this momentous journey with us,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters.

“SuperCam truly gives our rover eyes to see promising rock samples and ears to hear what it sounds like when the lasers strike them.”

“This information will be essential when determining which samples to cache and ultimately return to Earth through our groundbreaking Mars Sample Return Campaign, which will be one of the most ambitious feats ever undertaken by humanity.”

SuperCam is a suite of instruments composed of three spectrometers, a camera and a microphone.

It is an enhanced version of the ChemCam instrument on NASA’s Curiosity rover operating on Mars since 2012.

SuperCam will seek organic compounds that could be related to past life on Mars.

Like ChemCam, it will analyze the chemical composition of rocks by firing a laser at them — a technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. It will also detect minerals and any organic molecules by Raman and infrared spectrometry.

It will investigate rocks from a distance of 7 m and the Raman spectrometer from 12 m, while the IR spectrometer and the camera will be capable of seeing out to the horizon.

“It is amazing to see SuperCam working so well on Mars,” said SuperCam principal investigator Dr. Roger Wiens, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“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,” said Dr. Naomi Murdoch, a research scientist and lecturer at the ISAE-SUPAERO aerospace engineering school.

“It’s incredible to think that we’re going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars!”

The Perseverance team also 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 researchers also received excellent first datasets from the SuperCam’s visible and infrared sensor as well as its Raman spectrometer.

“This is the first time an instrument has used Raman spectroscopy anywhere other than on Earth,” said Dr. Olivier Beyssac, CNRS research director at the Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie.

“Raman spectroscopy is going to play a crucial role in characterizing minerals to gain deeper insight into the geological conditions under which they formed and to detect potential organic and mineral molecules that might have been formed by living organisms.”

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This article is based on text provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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