We will be able to listen to the first sounds of the planet Mars thanks to the ISAE-SUPAERO microphone on the Perseverance rover

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The Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18th! It is an international technological success for the space adventure with NASA. Operations for the Mars 2020 Mission have begun on the surface of the red planet and images from the SuperCam cameras are giving us access to the Martian environment.


Today, for the first time, we can hear sounds from Mars thanks to the microphone designed by researchers at ISAE-SUPAERO.

Perseverance landed on the red planet to begin its mission of studying the Martian environment. It landed in Jezero crater, located north of the equator on Mars, at the end of a voyage of more than 6 months after taking off from Earth!

The main purpose of Perseverance is to select samples of Mars to be gathered and then brought back to Earth in order to determine whether or not there was ever life on the 4th planet of our solar system. On board, the Martian microphone developed by our researchers will record sound on Mars for the first time. It is attached to SuperCam, the sophisticated Franco-American instrument mounted on Perseverance’s mast.

Click here to watch a rerun of the live broadcast of the landing organized by CNES in partnership with the CNRS. Many experts took part in the program, hosted by journalist Sophie Voinis, including David Mimoun, Head of the Department of Electronics, Optronics and Signal Processing at ISAE-SUPAERO and scientific coordinator for the microphone.


The SuperCam consortium entrusts ISAE-SUPAERO with the development of the microphone for Perseverance

One of the 7 scientific instruments on the Mars 2020 Mission, SuperCam, developed jointly by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL, Los Alamos) and a consortium of French CNRS and university laboratories under the scientific direction of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP, Toulouse) and under the responsibility of CNES, will study the chemistry and mineralogy of rocks and soils on Mars, as well as the composition of its atmosphere.

Crédit : NASA/JPL/Caltech

ISAE-SUPAERO, in collaboration with IRAP and with support from CNES, proposed an integrated microphone to NASA to reinforce SuperCam’s optical and electronic components. A team of 5 researchers and engineers from the Space Systems for Planetology & Applications research group (Electronics, Optronics and Signal Processing Department - DEOS) at ISAE-SUPAERO has been working on this project for 5 years. “There have been several attempts at embedding a microphone on a mission to Mars, all unsuccessful, and this is the first time that NASA has chosen one for its scientific value,” said David Mimoun, scientific head of the microphone project.


ISAE-SUPAERO’s second participation in an international Mars mission after the first successful collaboration with NASA and CNES for our contribution to the design, development and operation of the SEIS seismometer for the InSight mission.

For the 1st time in the world: listening to the sounds of the planet Mars through the microphone

En rouge, le microphone de l’ISAE-SUPAERO / Crédit NASA/JPL/Caltech

Mars is a very dusty planet, which means the explorer rover has to vaporize rock with a laser to make it visible. The microphone, a retail model specially adapted to withstand the Martian environment, will pursue several original scientific and technical goals:

  • Studying the sound associated with the laser impacts on Martian rocks to better understand their mechanical surface properties.
  • Improving our understanding of atmospheric phenomena such as wind turbulence, dust devils, and the wind’s interactions with the rover itself.
  • Understanding the sound signature of the rover’s different movements, for example operations by the robotic arm and the mast, driving on normal or rough terrain, monitoring pumps, etc.

Picking up sound and analyzing it to advance the atmospheric sciences

Thanks to the calibration performed on Earth in a chamber reproducing “Martian” conditions, the recordings can help determine the characteristics of the different types of materials analyzed by the SuperCam instrument.

Numerous laboratory tests in a thermal and atmospheric environment similar to that of Mars allowed the microphone to be calibrated to study the noise of the laser’s impact on different types of rock. Thanks to a collection of reference sounds, it will be possible to understand and analyze the sounds obtained.

Understanding the sound environment of Mars

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