Curiosity rover returns voice and telephoto views from Mars

Aug 28, 2012
A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA's Curiosity rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)—NASA's Mars Curiosity has debuted the first recorded human voice that traveled from Earth to another planet and back.

In radioed to the rover on Mars and back to NASA's (DSN) on Earth, Charles Bolden noted the difficulty of landing a rover on Mars, congratulated NASA employees and the agency's commercial and government partners on the successful landing of earlier this month, and said curiosity is what drives humans to explore.

"The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future," Bolden said in the recorded message.

The voice playback was released along with new telephoto camera views of the varied during a news conference today at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"With this voice, another small step is taken in extending human presence beyond Earth, and the experience of exploring remote worlds is brought a little closer to us all," said Dave Lavery, NASA Curiosity program executive. "As Curiosity continues its mission, we hope these words will be an inspiration to someone alive today who will become the first to stand upon the surface of Mars. And like the great Neil Armstrong, they will speak aloud of that next giant leap in human exploration."

The telephoto images beamed back to Earth show a scene of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside, with geological layering clearly exposed. The new views were taken by the 100-millimeter telephoto lens and the 34-milllimeter wide angle lens of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument. Mastcam has photographed the lower slope of the nearby mountain called Mount Sharp.

"This is an area on Mount Sharp where Curiosity will go," said Mastcam principal investigator Michael Malin, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "Those layers are our ultimate objective. The dark dune field is between us and those layers. In front of the dark sand you see redder sand, with a different composition suggested by its different color. The rocks in the foreground show diversity—some rounded, some angular, with different histories. This is a very rich geological site to look at and eventually to drive through."

This imagery is being released in association with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A drive early Monday placed Curiosity directly over a patch where one of the spacecraft's landing engines scoured away a few inches of gravelly soil and exposed underlying rock. Researchers plan to use a neutron-shooting instrument on the rover to check for water molecules bound into minerals at this partially excavated target.

During the news conference, the rover team reported the results of a test on Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which can measure the composition of samples of atmosphere, powdered rock or soil. The amount of air from Earth's atmosphere remaining in the instrument after Curiosity's launch was more than expected, so a difference in pressure on either side of tiny pumps led SAM operators to stop pumping out the remaining Earth air as a precaution. The pumps subsequently worked, and a chemical analysis was completed on a sample of Earth air.

"As a test of the instrument, the results are beautiful confirmation of the sensitivities for identifying the gases present," said SAM principal investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "We're happy with this test and we're looking forward to the next run in a few days when we can get Mars data."

Curiosity already is returning more data from the Martian surface than have all of NASA's earlier rovers combined.

"We have an international network of telecommunications relay orbiters bringing data back from Curiosity," said JPL's Chad Edwards, chief telecommunications engineer for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. "Curiosity is boosting its data return by using a new capability for adjusting its transmission rate."

Curiosity is 3 weeks into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. 's DSN is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Related Stories

Next Mars rover nears completion

Apr 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Assembly and testing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is far enough along that the mission's rover, Curiosity, looks very much as it will when it is investigating Mars.

Work stopped on alternative cameras for Mars rover

Mar 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The NASA rover to be launched to Mars this year will carry the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument already on the vehicle, providing the capability to meet the mission's science goals.

Explore a room with a Mars view

Aug 05, 2012

(Phys.org) -- On the evening of Sunday, Aug. 5, the focal point of Martian activity here on Earth will be located in the Mission Support Area in Building 230 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, ...

Mojave Desert tests prepare for NASA Mars Roving

May 14, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Team members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission took a test rover to Dumont Dunes in California's Mojave Desert this week to improve knowledge of the best way to operate a similar rover, ...

Cornell astronomers roving Mars with Curiosity

Aug 13, 2012

(Phys.org) -- In a daring feat of technological nerve and skill, NASA landed a 1-ton rover on the surface of Mars Aug. 6. The rolling laboratory is designed to help answer the question humans most want to ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 34

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ophelia
5 / 5 (10) Aug 28, 2012
So, they stuck an mp3 file in Curiosity's memory and transmitted it back from Mars? and that is supposed to be impressive? Particularly compared to everything else that has been done with Mars landers?

Was this just some way for Bolden to get his name in the paper?

Someone explain the significance of this to me, please. Or why it was even done.
LariAnn
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 28, 2012
I have two questions; firstly, if Earth air was trapped in the instruments, might Earth microbes or microbe spores be trapped there as well (and be released into the Martian atmosphere when the Earth air is purged)? Secondly, if the atmosphere on Mars is so thin when compared to that of Earth, why does the sky look so bright? Seems to me that the sky should look even darker than it does from the top of Mt. Everest - the air up there is still supposed to be much thicker than what is allegedly on Mars!
Peteri
5 / 5 (8) Aug 28, 2012
So, they stuck an mp3 file in Curiosity's memory and transmitted it back from Mars? and that is supposed to be impressive? Particularly compared to everything else that has been done with Mars landers?

Was this just some way for Bolden to get his name in the paper?

Someone explain the significance of this to me, please. Or why it was even done.


IMHO, such pathetic publicity stunts, apparently aimed at the general public, just serve to trivialise the whole endeavour!
chardo137
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 28, 2012
Playing this silly audio file while blatantly not mentioning Neil Armstrong at the press conference make Charles Bolden one of the most pathetic figures in recent memory. Did NASA really think that this stunt was going to impress anyone? I can believe that someone came up with the idea, but why didn't anyone tell them that it was stupid? Is there really that much of an atmosphere of fear at NASA?
brentseay
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2012
I came for audio from Mars. I received audio from Earth. I don't understand this experiment...? Can I please hear what Mars sounds like? Does that thing got a Hemi!? AKA microphone. Can it not record the winds, etc from Mars? I am disappointed.
Luis_Dias
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2012
"Others had tried, only America has fully succeeded."


I think it resumes this pathetic experiment. Not sure if they did it to "justify" to the public the huge amount of money they needed, or if it's just free useless patriotism. But it's not uncommon for them to resume things this way and take advantage of work done by many other non-USA contributors, I mean, it all started precisely with Moon landing/Armstrong. It was something to put a foot on the Moon, but to have the knowledge to travel there in the first place, that sure wasn't American technology or USA scientists who did it (Project Paperclip). But anyway, it was the Cold War and was important to make themselves bigger than the USSR and get revenge for previous Space Race losses.

But nowadays, it makes no sense to make such speech. NASA rely on many countries, scientists, contributors, and Science is a common good to be appreciated and studied by everyone.
JRi
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012
I was looking something like listening to echo reflected from the nearby mountains. Don't know if the thin "air" of Mars would have enable that.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012
It's a bit surprising that Curiosity doesn't include a microphone, since that would weigh essentially nothing.

Maybe they could turn Curiosity's accelerometers into microphones, by sampling them at 8 kHz or more. I suppose the sound quality would be terrible, but it would still be very exciting to hear sounds from Curiosity and its Martian environment!
Deathclock
1 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2012
I'm not sure what all of you guys are expecting to hear.... it will be silent except for the noise that the rover itself makes, that's not interesting.
Kafpauzo
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
Deathclock, even if we could only hear the rover, that would actually be great, in that it would give some added feeling of presence, of being there.

In that case it would not be a matter of getting factual information through the sound, it would be a matter of excitement and inspiration. Space exploration is not only factual, there's also a romantic side, a sense of joy and awe.

But we would probably not only hear the rover itself. We would probably also hear the soil crunching very slowly while Curiosity is driving, digging and drilling. Although these sounds would be almost the same as on Earth, there would be the fascination of knowing that we're hearing the soils and rocks of Mars.

Since the winds are strong enough to raise lots of dust, maybe despite the low pressure we'd hear the winds or the dust moving.

Sounds might also give some useful feedback to the engineers. There's also a remote chance that it might surprise the scientists with useful information about the soil.
Deathclock
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2012
Kafpauzo:

That's all fantastic, but since I am paying for this (as a taxpayer), I really don't give a damn about added expenses that don't contribute to new scientific knowledge or understanding.

You really don't know the complexity or expense of adding another measurement instrument to the rover... yes you can go get a microphone from walmart for $5 but that has NOTHING to do with putting one on this rover or supporting it in code or making allowances for the additional weight and for the transmission of it's recordings... it's far more complicated than most people understand. If the brilliant people working at NASA thought a microphone would be significantly beneficial to advancing our knowledge they would have included one... I really don't think they overlooked the possibility. They determined, probably through great discussion, research, and debate, that the rover should not have one and I support their decision because I am in no position to question it, and neither are you.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (9) Aug 28, 2012
A lot of people, not just on this site but in general, need to get their head out of their ass and realize that their uninformed opinions are not relevant and that they are in no position to question the individuals who likely spent hundreds of hours making these decisions and who know and understand ALL of the potential benefits and complications of the issue

Far too many people seem to think that their opinion matters when they don't know anything about what is obviously an extremely complicated topic... You simply do not have the insight to form a valid opinion, especially not to contradict the opinions or decisions of the experts that know SO MUCH more about it than you do.

If anyone can prove to me that NASA never considered whether or not to send a microphone to mars (on this rover or otherwise) then I will recant these words.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
I really don't give a damn about added expenses that don't contribute to new scientific knowledge or understanding.

But they would contribute. If they inspire a thousand kids to study hard enough to become scientists and engineers, that's a very high contribution to new knowledge.

There's more. You say that the only thing that is worth paying for is "new scientific knowledge or understanding". That's an opinion, not a fact. Different people are willing to pay for different things.

Many people say that the habitability of Mars is not worth exploring. You say that it is. Many say that the inspiration is the real ROI. Opinion!

You really don't know the complexity or expense of adding another measurement instrument to the rover

Obviously it would cost several thousand dollars at the very least. That in itself is no proof that the ROI would be less than the cost. To determine that, you need to have some inkling about what the ROI would be. This includes inspiration etc.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2012
I am in no position to question it, and neither are you.

Far too many people seem to think that their opinion matters when they don't know anything about what is obviously an extremely complicated topic... You simply do not have the insight to form a valid opinion, especially not to contradict the opinions or decisions of the experts that know SO MUCH more about it than you do.

You are trying to forbid opinions. What's the point of having a discussion if opinions are forbidden?

And why is your opinion in this matter worth expressing, if nobody else's is?

Fortunately, despite your strong objections, the Curiosity teams ARE open to questions and opinions, as you can clearly see in their televised press conferences.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
You are trying to forbid opinions. What's the point of having a discussion if opinions are forbidden?


You can have an opinion so long as you don't demonize the one made by the experts, it would better expressed as a wish, as in "I wish they had included a microphone because I would like to hear the mechanical noises of the rover".

And why is your opinion in this matter worth expressing, if nobody else's is?


Because my opinion WRT to the microphone issue is merely echoing that of the experts because I recognize that I don't have the information or understanding necessary to criticize their opinion.

Fortunately, despite your strong objections, the Curiosity teams ARE open to questions and opinions, as you can clearly see in their televised press conferences.


Of course they are, but they make the decisions because they understand the issues, and this decision has already been made.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
You really don't know the complexity or expense of adding another measurement instrument to the rover

Obviously it would cost several thousand dollars at the very least.


Try hundreds of thousands of dollars or more... you're only considering the hardware, not the engineering. Engineers are expensive... and this requires the time of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, etc. NASA burns $1000 dollars a minute if not much more... it would take more than a few minutes to add a new measurement instrument to this rover.

This program cost 2.5 billion dollars, at the rate of $1000 a minute that I estimated that gets you 4.76 years... full time.
Deathclock
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2012
This program cost 2.5 billion dollars, at the rate of $1000 a minute that I estimated that gets you 4.76 years... full time.


My point here, that I didn't explain as well as I should have, is that considering the MSL program took less than one year the actual cost comes out to be closer to $5000 a minute... If you consider that it would take probably the better part of a week of man hours to integrate a microphone onto this probe by the time you get done with mechanical, electrical, and software engineering to support it, then you see how much it would actually cost... in the tens of millions of dollars range.

You can't just pick up a USB microphone at Best Buy and plug it in to the ass end of this thing. This extremely complex and sophisticated rover is not a hodge-podge of off the shelve products held together with duct tape and chewing gum...
Kafpauzo
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
You can have an opinion so long as you don't demonize the one made by the experts,


I said "It's a bit surprising". How on Earth can you interpret that as demonizing?

The fact that I find it surprising means that I openly recognize that I don't know the reasoning behind their decision, and would find the reasoning interesting.

Demonizing? You must be the most oversensitive person I've ever met.

Try hundreds of thousands of dollars or more...

A hundred thousand would be less than half of a tenth of a percent of the project cost.

If this should inspire a thousand kids to become scientists and engineers, that would be worth far, far more than a few hundred thousand dollars.

To paraphrase your comment: You really don't know the complexity of inspiration's impact on the economy... yes you can calculate $100,000 for a microphone but that has NOTHING to do with the calculation of the ROI.

I still insist that discussions become pointless if ideas and opinions are forbidden.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
My first comment was not in response to yours, but to others earlier in this thread and to other similar comments on other similar articles. This is not the first article where people are complaining about not being able to hear the silence on Mars... It was more of a general comment not directed at anyone in particular.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2012
considering the MSL program took less than one year

You can't build and send a rover like this in a single year! The selection of instruments was finalized in 2004!

The >2.5 billion cost includes the Curiosity teams' work during two years operating the rover on Mars.

But you can't use these numbers to calculate the cost of a microphone. Your calculation assumes that if they had decided to install a microphone, all the teams would stop all other work and everybody would work exclusively on the microphone.

Neither you nor I know if the cost would be closer to a few tens of thousands or a few million. I still insist that I find the lack of microphone a little surprising, and would find the reasoning behind this interesting.

The Phoenix lander did include a microphone. It was part of its MARDI (Descent Imager) instrument. Unfortunately, the entire MARDI had to be disabled just before launch, due to a faulty data routing card.

For some reason Curiosity's MARDI has no microphone.
Kafpauzo
not rated yet Aug 28, 2012
My first comment was not in response to yours, but to others earlier in this thread and to other similar comments on other similar articles. This is not the first article where people are complaining about not being able to hear the silence on Mars... It was more of a general comment not directed at anyone in particular.

Me, I hope that we will hear more opinions of that kind, because it's interesting to hear how people feel about these things.

Of course, such opinions shouldn't be plaintive or whining -- and much less demonizing. But I really haven't felt that people have had such attitudes, so far.

The complaints about this particular article are complaints about the deceptive title of the article, and about the fact that the sending of a simple, recorded sound file to Mars and back gets treated as something great and special. To many people, this is too much of a trivial gimmick.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
considering the MSL program took less than one year

You can't build and send a rover like this in a single year! The selection of instruments was finalized in 2004!


Ooops... I read a date wrong.. well my face is red!

Anyways, my point wasn't that you can't have an opinion, my point was that NASA knows what it is doing, clearly, and if they didn't put a microphone on the rover I would lean strongly toward the assumption that it was for a good reason and strongly against the assumption that it was an oversight or mistake.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
that NASA knows what it is doing, clearly, and if they didn't put a microphone on the rover I would lean strongly toward the assumption that it was for a good reason and strongly against the assumption that it was an oversight or mistake.

On this point I agree completely.

I might have some opinion about their priorities, could be, it depends. But that wouldn't diminish the fact that their competence clearly inspires lots of confidence. I'm sure they had very good reasons.

Actually, I have a guess about a likely reason why they omitted the microphone.

They may have felt that the complexity of the rover was getting high. Complexity is costly in itself, even in the case where the added part is simple. What's more, with increased complexity you get increased risk.

They may have felt that the level of complexity was such that they needed to scrap every single detail that was not absolutely crucial for the mission, in order to get manageable complexity and good reliability.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
my point was that NASA knows what it is doing, clearly, and if they didn't put a microphone on the rover I would lean strongly toward the assumption that it was for a good reason


I didn't know ad hominems count as arguments in here.

You're assuming because of percieved authority and expertise, yet you can't discount the possibility that they simply didn't think about it, and are now kicking each other in the shins for the omission.

It's pointless to try to apologize and find excuses for them, when you could just ask them. Mars isn't a silent place even though it has a thin atmosphere, and if nothing else then sound can carry information about the kind of surface the rover is riding on because the pebbles crunch under the wheels.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2012
I didn't know ad hominems count as arguments in here.


You must be new here.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.6 / 5 (17) Aug 28, 2012
It's a bit surprising that Curiosity doesn't include a microphone, since that would weigh essentially nothing.

Maybe they could turn Curiosity's accelerometers into microphones, by sampling them at 8 kHz or more. I suppose the sound quality would be terrible, but it would still be very exciting to hear sounds from Curiosity and its Martian environment!
The Polar Lander did have a microphone but alas 900 ft tall glass-headed martians ate it. Perhaps NASA did not want to further antagonize them? Perhaps voice recording is illegal there as well?
http://en.wikiped...r_Lander

-PR is important even if it is corny and cheesy like voice recordings. This thing will be traveling for a year or so before it reaches its destination. How will it hold the publics interest?
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
and if nothing else then sound can carry information about the kind of surface the rover is riding on because the pebbles crunch under the wheels.


That's REALLY reaching... the information to be gained by listening to soil and pebbles crush under the rover is almost non-existent.

Other than that and potentially the whisper of a very gentle breeze on the microphone Mars absolutely is a silent place.
c0y0te
not rated yet Aug 29, 2012
Other than that and potentially the whisper of a very gentle breeze on the microphone Mars absolutely is a silent place.

That's from your first-hand experience, or...?
Deathclock
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2012
Other than that and potentially the whisper of a very gentle breeze on the microphone Mars absolutely is a silent place.

That's from your first-hand experience, or...?


...or an understanding of how sound works and where it comes from? Why don't you all tell me, what sound do you expect to hear with the rover sitting still and not making any noise? The only thing I can think of is a very gentle breeze, but we have other instruments to measure that already, there is no reason to hear it (other than novelty)
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.6 / 5 (17) Aug 29, 2012
That's REALLY reaching... the information to be gained by listening to soil and pebbles crush under the rover is almost non-existent.
I think it would sound something like this: http://www.youtub...0aKdiI7k
...or an understanding of how sound works and where it comes from? Why don't you all tell me, what sound do you expect to hear with the rover sitting still and not making any noise
Or, why dont you ask NASA, who, as I say, had included one on the polar lander? Perhaps they have some understanding of how sound works -?

-Or maybe these guys did?

"Sending a microphone to Mars was initially proposed by Society cofounder Carl Sagan. Janet Luhmann of the University of California at Berkeley, and David Juergens of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, teamed with the Planetary Society to make the Mars Microphone Project a reality."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.6 / 5 (17) Aug 29, 2012
You're assuming because of percieved authority and expertise, yet you can't discount the possibility that they simply didn't think about it, and are now kicking each other in the shins for the omission.
No they did think about it, because they HAVE done this before. I know this because I researched BEFORE I posted which to me makes some sense and would appear to be a common courtesy.
yyz
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2012
The JPL page for the Martian Microphone on the Mars Polar Lander (sponsored by the Planetary Society and identical to the instrument on the Phoenix lander) notes that it was designed to detect sounds arising from "wind, dust, and electrical discharges in the Martian atmosphere": http://mars.jpl.n...oes.html

And recently, a study attempted to simulate (among other things) the sounds of martian thunder and a dust devil: http://www.popula...-8036777

But who really knows what sounds may be recorded unless we do the experiment? Fortunately, the Planetary Society is working to have a microphone experiment fly on the recently approved Mars InSight lander: http://www.planet...016.html
Smashin_Z_1885
1 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2012
How tall is Mount Sharp in relation to the surrounding plain, or crater floor? Also, this parallax reality is so incredibly interesting, I certainly hope it is more than observed reality from my point of view. The hope of my own mission of course, is to share all of this spectacular knowledge, if I get back in one piece that is. One more point; I find it a great thing that one writer here questions the sounds of the pebbles crunching under the wheels of that contraption. Now you're thinking outside the box. Yes indeed. Now if I can only achieve an interactive reality here, or, maybe if you can read this, perhaps I have done so already, but one can not be certain of that as of yet. cheers!
Smashin_Z_1885
1 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2012
I have been informed by my colleague that indeed, this reality is a stage II observational; . So therefore we may collect photographic data and nothing more. Apparently photons are not picky about 'time travel' and indeed imbed their information upon our photographic plates, as the entanglement is some sort of steady-state system, at least concerning the behaviour of photons. Interesting, as this implies the information I attempt to convey here is non-interactive and therefore no information may be conveyed. However: if a response is initiated, our research proves to be flawed, and as such, we have clearly achieved stage III interactive parallax, which, assuming we are capable of return, shall yield great knowledge. Cheers!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.