It starts with an ominous beep, before the sound of grinding and clanking kicks in. Then there’s several bangs and a high-pitched squeal that would be pretty worrisome by Earth standards.
As one engineer said: “If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow.”
But, these aren’t noises from a dodgy vehicle - these are the first-ever sounds of Nasa’s newest Mars rover driving on the surface of the red planet.
The noises, made by Perseverance’s six metal wheels and suspension on the first test drive two weeks ago, were featured as part of a 16-minute audio released on Wednesday by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Dave Gruel, an engineer on the rover team, said: “If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow.
“But if you take a minute to consider what you’re hearing and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”
The driving audio contains an unexpectedly high-pitched scratching noise, according to Nasa, and engineers are trying to figure out what it is
Perseverance – the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent to Mars – landed near an ancient river delta on February 18 to search for signs of past life. Samples will be taken from the most promising rocks for eventual return to Earth.
The rover carries two microphones. One already has captured the sounds of wind and rock-zapping lasers, the other was meant to record the descent and landing.
This second mic didn’t pick up any sounds of the rover’s arrival at Mars, but managed to record the first test drive on March 4.
Before it starts drilling into rocks for core samples, Perseverance will drop off an experimental tag-along helicopter, named Ingenuity. The helicopter will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet sometime next month.