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Spotlight On Mars - Image
Roving to the Beat of Their Own Drum
February 22, 2010
Artist concept of Spirit on Mars'

Image and Caption

While the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity do not carry a microphone, these audio excerpts represent the journeys the Mars rovers have made while driving across the plains, mountains and craters of Mars during the last six years.

As you will hear, Spirit has had a much bumpier ride than Opportunity due to the different types of terrain the rovers are driving over. Spirit is on very rocky terrain, while Opportunity is mostly crossing a flat plain with dune fields and very few rocks.

 Audio Files - MP3
SpiritExcerpt (276 kB)Full-length (1.9 MB)
OpportunityExcerpt (276 kB)Full-length (3.4 MB)

Engineers made these audio files with data from a device on each rover called an "accelerometer," which is typically used to know the position of the rover on Mars.

This device can also measure all the small bumps and vibrations the rover undergoes while moving. The sounds were made by converting the accelerometer data to WAV file (the format that Compact Discs use) and then finally to mp3. These vibrations are extremely low frequency, much lower than the human ear can hear. In order to hear these vibrations, engineers have sped them up about 1,000 times, much like playing a tape in fast forward on an old tape recorder.

The roughly 30-second excerpt for Spirit is from when the rover was exploring "Husband Hill," which it summated in 2005. The Opportunity excerpt is from drives of the rover's current location at "Concepcion" crater. The full-length audio file for Spirit (roughly 30 minutes) covers a time period from Sols (martian days) 1 to 2164 (Jan. 4, 2004 to Feb. 3, 2010), while the Opportunity file (about 60 minutes in length) covers Sols 1 to 2143 (Jan. 24, 2004 to Feb. 2, 2010).

Podcast: Mars Rovers 'Talk' Via Audio Files

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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