02/26/2021

A SciFri Soundscape Of The Red Planet

1:50 minutes

a martian landscape showing a rising hill in the distance
The rim of Jezero Crater, taken by the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU

The Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars last week, carried a suite of exciting, new scientific instruments that haven’t been brought to the Red Planet before. One of those, however, was a bit more ordinary than the others: a microphone. Earlier this week, the rover sent back a recording of the strangely familiar buffeting sound of Martian wind.

It got us at SciFri wondering: What would sounds on Earth sound like on Mars? Luckily, NASA has a website where they’ve simulated what common sounds on Earth (like birds chirping, a truck backing up, or a song) would sound like in the thin Martian atmosphere. Turns out, sounds are a lot quieter on Mars and a lot of the higher frequencies are not audible by human ears.

Producer Daniel Peterschmidt created a soundscape collage that transitions between Earth sounds and Mars sounds, set to a shifting version of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” At the end of the piece, you can hear the recent recording of Martian wind.


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Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: This week NASA released a recording of the wind on Mars, recorded by the Perseverance Rover. And it got us thinking about how things might sound on the surface of another world. Quieter, frequency shifted a bit, due to the planet’s thinner atmosphere. NASA compiled common Earth sounds, and adjusted them to approximate how they would sound on Mars. We turned those sounds into this week’s SciFri soundscape. Listen for a whisper of wind at the end.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SPEAKER 1: We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation, but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.

SPEAKER 2: Hello from the children of planet Earth.

SPEAKER 3: Hello from the children of planet Earth.

SPEAKER 4: Touchdown confirmed. We’re safe on Mars.

[WIND WHOOSHING]

IRA FLATOW: Those last sounds were the first sounds sent back from the surface of Mars. That soundscape was created by SciFri’s Daniel Peterschmidt.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Daniel Peterschmidt

Daniel Peterschmidt is a digital producer and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts, including Science Diction and Undiscovered. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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