The Planetary Society's Mars Microphone will hitch a new ride to the Red Planet on board the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) NetLander mission in 2007. CNES is the national space agency of France. NetLander will deploy four landers on the surface of Mars and network them together to study the deep interior, geology and atmosphere of Mars.
"We have seen other worlds and even touched them via robotic senses," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, "but the Mars Microphone will offer humanity the first opportunity to listen to the sounds on the surface of an alien world."
Originally launched on NASA's Mars Polar Lander in 1999, the Mars Microphone was, unfortunately, lost with that mission when the spacecraft never regained contact with Earth after beginning its descent to the planet's surface.
The instrument was developed by the University of California Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory for The Planetary Society. It is designed to record whatever sounds there are on Mars, such as wind, dust and electrical discharges in the Martian atmosphere as well as noises of the spacecraft itself. The microphone can be triggered randomly by naturally occurring sounds or it can be programmed to listen to specific lander actions.
The microphone will focus on sounds in frequencies audible to humans. Another sensor, delivered by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, will extend sound measurement to infra-sounds, generated at low frequencies.
The UC Berkeley team of Janet Luhmann, Dave Curtis and Greg Delory are responsible for the Mars Microphone. Greg Delory will give special briefings about the instrument at a NetLander meeting in Nantes, France, April 2-5, 2001.
The Mars Microphone is constructed largely of off-the-shelf parts, including a microphone similar to those in hearing aids and a microprocessor chip used in speech recognition devices. The microphone uses Sensory, Inc's RSC-364 IC chip, the most popular IC for speech recognition in consumer electronics. The microphone comes from a long line of miniaturized, robust devices, several of which were used for astronaut communications during the Apollo moon landings.
An international team of about ten partners contributes to CNES's NetLander mission, the main ones being Finland (FMI), Germany (DLR, IfP), Belgium (SSTC), Switzerland and the USA (JPL). NetLander mission areas of study include the deep internal structure of Mars, planetary boundary layer phenomena, surface mineralogy and local geology, subsurface structure down to water rich layers, global atmospheric circulation, and surface/atmosphere interaction.
The Mars Microphone is paid for by donations from the members of The Planetary Society. It was the first instrument ever funded by a public interest organization to fly on a planetary mission. For more information, visit our website.