InSight Lander Sends the Sound of Wind on Mars

Katie Ramirez
December 8, 2018

The NASA InSight lander, which is supported by the UK Space Agency, has recorded a haunting, low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind.

"Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace", says Bruce Banerdt, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, speaking in a press statement. Cornell University's Don Banfield told reporters they reminded him of "sitting outside on a windy summer some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sitting on the InSight lander on Mars".

This spectrogram shows the first data collected by one of the three sensors on InSight's short-period seismometer. That means they are well-placed to capture noises around and onboard the lander, including the sound of the wind blowing across InSight's solar arrays. It's like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. "They do sound like the wind or maybe the ocean roaring in the background, but it also has kind of an unworldly feel to it".

We know what Mars looks like, but there's a lot of mystery around what Mars sounds like.

These vibrations were detected by an ultra-sensitive seismometer developed in the United Kingdom and an air pressure sensor sitting on the lander's deck. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor recorded the vibrations directly from changes in the air. On Friday, NASA released audio of the Martian wind, the first time sound has been recorded on another planet's surface.

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The craft's landing comes as part of NASA's mission to explore the planet's deep interior.

The solar panels on the lander's sides are ideal acoustic receivers. It still will detect the lander's movement, though channeled through the Martian surface.

InSight is created to study the interior of Mars like never before, using seismology instruments to detect quakes and a self-hammering mole to measure heat escape from the planet's crust.

In the meantime, the sounds of the Martian wind are a poignant reminder of just how far InSight has flown: more than 300 million miles (480 million kilometers), becoming only the eighth spacecraft to successfully touch down on the Red Planet.

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