The NASA rover — named Perserverance — that touched down on Mars last week is outfitted with a DPA 4006 omnidirectional microphone that has captured the first sounds from the surface of the Red Planet, with an MMA-A digital audio interface also onboard the spacecraft to record and send the audio to a computer through its USB connection. Both mics are paired with MMP-G modular active cables designed to act as preamplifiers. (Listen to the audio here.)
After being put through vigorous testing by NASA scientists, the DPA equipment officially launched into space aboard the Atlas V-541 rocket in July 2020. Over the past seven months, the equipment has faced pressure changes while leaving Earth’s atmosphere and again when entering the Martian surface, and extreme temperatures — as low as -100 Celsius/-148 Fahrenheit — on Mars. Additionally, the DPA gear has endured the substantial vibrations caused by the rocket launch and subsequent landing on Mars.
“It is an honor to have been chosen for this space mission, and we are so pleased by the results,” says DPA Product Manager René Mørch. “Everything about the mission — from the launch to the landing — is hostile insofar as a microphone is generally concerned. It’s very exciting to know that DPA was able to record something from so many millions of miles away, and have the sound travel back to us so quickly. We are proud to have worked with NASA for such a historic and important mission. To have been able to deliver audio from the surface of Mars is truly a crowning achievement.”
After the rover touched down on the Mars, audio and video files were recorded from the surface and transmitted to NASA’s base station. The initial audio files were sent to DPA’s engineering team for processing and then subsequently were sent back to NASA for final analyzing and publishing.
According to Mørch, the ability of DPA products to perform following the rigors of space travel was considered paramount to their selection by NASA. “With precision engineering and craftsmanship at the heart of our manufacturing process, the 4006 microphone and associated accessories provided the robustness necessary to not only survive space travel, but also capture sounds from the surface,” he says. “Additionally, these products will remain in space indefinitely, which is a testament to the quality and resiliency of our development.”
Though other missions to Mars have provided seismic soundwaves from the planet, this expedition marks the first time the world has experienced a true audio capture of its surface. While one might expect equipment aboard a space mission to be unique and purpose-built for interplanetary travel, the DPA gear on board Perserverance are off-the-shelf components. Though the layout of the microphone amplifier and chassis of the MMA-A each required modifications in order to be affixed to the rover, the mechanics of the devices are exactly the same as those found the usual products.
“The entire construction of the equipment was tested rigorously during the rover assembly process,” Mørch concludes. “It was during this process that the DPA solution proved its effectiveness to the mission, earning it a coveted spot on the historic rover. To me, the fact that these are factory standard components is a clear testament to the quality and durability of the equipment we manufacture.”