NASA's InSight Mars Lander 'Hears' Martian Wind, a Cosmic First

Olive Hawkins
December 8, 2018

These instruments will be the first ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet. For now, it is recording wind data that scientists will later be able to cancel out of data from the surface, allowing them to separate "noise" from actual Marsquakes.

InSight landed on Mars on November 26.

What's even more exciting about InSight's fascinating discovery is that the NASA team were not even planning on capturing the previously unheard wind.

The NASA InSight lander, which is supported by the UK Space Agency, has recorded a haunting, low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind. You may need to put on earphones or crank up your subwoofer to hear what's going on in the first video, which is made up of raw data from the seismometer. So, NASA also provided a version of the recording shifted up in pitch, which pulls some of the otherwise-inaudible infrasound into hearing range.

When the sensors pick up vibrations from InSight's solar panels, the whole spacecraft acts like a giant microphone.

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It's been less than two weeks since InSight touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, but it is already sending back incredible things for us to marvel at.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory released audio clips of the alien wind on Friday. The air pressure sensor detected the air vibrations directly while the seismometer recorded vibrations caused by the Martian wind blowing across InSight's solar panels. In the newest photos sent back by the robot it's immediately clear that its landing site is absolutely ideal. The sounds were recorded by an air pressure sensor inside the lander that is part of a weather station, as well as the seismometer on the deck of the spacecraft.

The 1976 Viking landers on Mars picked up spacecraft shaking caused by wind, but it would be a stretch to consider it sound, said InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, of JPL in Pasadena, California.

The solar panels on the lander's sides are ideal acoustic receivers. One has been included specifically to record the sound of a Martian landing for the first time. It will also record the sound of the instrument's laser as it zaps different materials, helping to identify the material based on the sound it makes.

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