What does a drone sound like on Mars? Now we know

NASA just released a video that not only shows the Ingenuity aircraft flying, but captured a little of what a drone sounds like on Mars. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t sound like a theremin.

Wouldn’t it be great if Mars sounded like it does in science fiction movie soundtracks? But the high screaming wail of the theremin will have to wait for earthling musicians to visit in some future solar system tour. In the meantime, we now know exactly what a drone does sound like when it slips the surly bonds of Mars. For the first time, a spacecraft on another planet recorded the sounds of a separate spacecraft. And here it is:

The Perseverance rover used one of its two microphones to listen as the Ingenuity helicopter flew on April 30. The audio comes from a microphone belonging to the rover’s SuperCam laser instrument. The laser zaps rocks to study their vapor with a spectrometer. Its microphone also records the sounds of the laser strikes, which can provide information on the physical properties of the rocks. But it can also listen to ambient noise, like the Martian wind.

Or a Martian drone.

What a drone sounds like on Mars

Perseverance was 80 meters away from the drone’s takeoff point, and engineers weren’t sure it would actually hear anything. But the drone drones alright. The helicopter’s blades spin at 2,537 rpm and the sound is a little muffled by the thin Martian atmosphere. But you can still hear the drone faintly above the sound of those winds. (It’s apparently better with headphones.)

“This is a very good surprise,” says David Mimoun, science lead for the SuperCam Mars microphone. “We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly. This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere.”

Scientists made the audio easier to hear by isolating the 84 hertz blade noise from the background hum. It’s loudest when the helicopter passes through the field of view of the camera. I hear it pretty clearly at the :40 mark.

NASA hopes to capture even more audio from future Ingenuity flights. If only it could downwash a theremin.

If you’re interested how the noises of earth would sound like on Mars, NASA has you covered. It’s processed the sounds of bird song, bicycle bells and oceans waves to make them sound the way they would on the red planet.. It’s all kind of droney.

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