Click, click, click.
On Wednesday, NASA released the first-ever recording of a laser firing on Mars. The recently landed Mars Perserance rover zapped a rock from 10 feet away. In the recording below, you can hear 30 zaps, which sound like clicks as the laser hits the rock.
“These sounds are exactly as you would hear them with your own ears if you were standing on the surface of Mars,” Naomi Murdoch, a rover engineer and researcher at ISAE-SUPAERO (France’s Higher Institute of Aeronautics and Space), said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The rover’s SuperCam instrument, which sits atop the robot’s mast like a crow’s nest on a ship, is equipped with the laser. Each laser strike concentrates the power of one million light bulbs onto an area the size of a pinhead. As Mashable previously reported:
The laser’s energy excites the target’s atoms, producing the ephemeral flickers. By looking at these flashes of light, each with a unique signature, the SuperCam can then analyze what any given target is made out of, like organic materials microbes may have once munched on.
By zapping rocks with a laser from distances of some 25 feet away, NASA scientists aim to identify the most plausible places where Martian life could have once dwelled. Certain organic materials left on the rocks or ground, for example, could lead them there.
The SuperCam also carries the rover’s main microphone, which can give NASA more information about Martian rocks, like their hardness. In a dry desert world filled with rocks, boulders, and potential places to go, the more information they have, the better to find evidence of life.
“We’d like to hear things on Mars.”
The Perseverance rover will spend years exploring Mars’ Jezero Crater, a place NASA believes was once home to a river delta — the type of watery environment that could have supported primitive life. At Jezero, Perseverance won’t just record lasers, but also the eerie Martian wind and atmosphere.
“We can see things on Mars,” Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who leads the SuperCam team, told Mashable last year. “We’d like to hear things on Mars.”