http://a104.g.akamai.net/7/104/97/.../mpl/images/mars_microphone.jpg [not image]
I then began investigating how just a single microphone, to listen in a passive mode only, might fit with the Surveyor mission, either with the integrated lander package or with the Russian LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) instrument. Engineers had already proposed a similar passive instrument for the LIDAR, using devices called pressure transducers, but mission planners decided not to include these on the project. Fortunately, the mass and other requirements for these transducers were so minimal that mission planners just left the overall mass allocation on the instrument alone.
Viacheslav "Slava" Linkin's LIDAR team (principally Linkin himself with Sergei Perchin and Alexander Lipatov) analyzed the question of integrating the microphone into their experiment. They concluded that they could accommodate a microphone into their experiment within their mass and power allocation and other spacecraft constraints.
Linkin also noted that in their instrument concept a range of measurements from a few to 300 hertz could give infra-sound to ordinary sound exploration. The LIDAR team agreed that they would integrate the data from the microphone into their data stream, and all agreed to discuss with the Surveyor project and science teams about optional additional data allocation.
Thus the Planetary Society and the LIDAR team agreed to develop and build the experiment jointly: The Russians are responsible for the acoustic sensor, and a group at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, under the leadership of Luhman, are responsible for the electronics. The Planetary Society funds the project and the Russian Space Research Institute (IKI) integrated it into LIDAR.
Carl Sagan and Russian academician Georgi Golitsyn wrote letters to NASA supporting the Society's offer to include the microphone on the Mars Surveyor Project 1998 lander — the project that is now known as the Mars Polar Lander. Both of these scientists saw potential for interesting measurements about atmospheric properties from the sound and infra-sound and educational possibilities from hearing the "sounds of Mars."
The final necessary component to making it happen was having a scientific group highly experienced in space hardware at the University of California, Berkeley, willing to build the Mars Microphone "on the cheap" as an educational project. Thus, for less than $100,000, we were able to build the microphone, test it, and integrate it on the spacecraft.
And the Planetary Society could offer the Mars Microphone to NASA at no cost. The instrument would require almost no additional mass, power, or data volume allocations from the project. Further, the Russians agreed to integrate it into the LIDAR at no cost to the Planetary Society.
This sequence of fortuitous events, negotiations, and hard work led to the Planetary Society’s Mars Microphone being sent to Mars.
In addition to the University of California, Berkeley, Space Sciences Laboratory, and the Russian Space Research Institute, the Society acknowledges the help and cooperation from Lockheed-Martin Corporation, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Surveyor Project team, and the Mars Volatiles and Climate Surveyor experiment team at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Louis Friedman is the Executive Director and Cofounder of the Planetary Society.