Phoenix Landers microphone may record what Mars sounds like

October 3rd, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 3 (ANI): NASA scientists are hoping to hear what Mars sounds like when they attempt to switch on the Phoenix Mars Landers microphone in the next week or two.

Phoenixs microphone is a part of the Mars Descent Imager system (MARDI) that was included on the underside of the lander to take downward-looking images during the three minutes of descent before the spacecraft touched down on the planets surface.

The MARDI on Phoenix was originally designed for the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander missions, which were eventually canceled.

The plan to use the imager and microphone on May 25, when Phoenix landed, were scrapped when tests showed that using the system would create an unacceptable risk to a safe landing for Phoenix.

Phoenix did safely land at its appointed side in the Martian arctic, where it has been digging up samples of dirt and subsurface water ice and analyzing them with its instruments to assess the planets past potential habitability.

Though the original plan to use Phoenixs mike during landing was scrapped, mission scientists didnt rule out using it later during the mission.

Wed always hoped to turn it on, said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith.

The team needed NASAs approval for funding to turn on the microphone, and now theyve gotten the go-ahead, Smith added.

They cant flip the switch right away. There are still a few checks that need to be done, and Phoenixs software needs to be changed a bit, Smith told Were just kind of cranking it up, he added.

Once all the preparations are ready, the team plans to try to turn the microphone on while the lander is digging or using the rasp on the end of its robotic arm scoop, just to make sure we hear something, Smith said.

You at least want to know if theres a chance of noise being created, he added.

Phoenix scientists arent sure just what, or how much, theyll hear. For one thing, Phoenixs mike is not a professional microphone, according to Smith.

For another, sound waves dont travel as far on Mars as they do on Earth because Mars atmosphere is thinner.

It would be similar to listening to sound at an altitude of about 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above Earths surface, Smith said.

If the team can hear Phoenixs operations, theyll then turn the microphone on while Phoenix is quiet and just see what they can hear. (ANI)

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