Science

NASA's InSight lander captures first sounds of wind on Mars

NASA's InSight lander captures first sounds of wind on Mars

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. As well, this was something of a lucky acquisition, as NASA says it is the only part of InSight's mission where these sounds could have been recorded passing over the rover.

NASA InSight snapped this raw photo using its arm-mounted instrument deployment camera.

To get high-quality data from the incredibly sensitive seismometer onboard the lander, the team needs to be able to cancel out all the commotion coming from the Martian surface, looking only at signals coming from inside the planet. That lander is scheduled to arrive on Mars in two years and will have microphones on board to record direct sounds, including the sound of the landing.

SEIS includes three Short Period sensors (SEIS SP) developed in partnership by Imperial College London, Oxford University and STFC RAL Space, with £4 million in funding from the UK Space Agency.

'It's like InSight is cupping its ears'.




Sensing the wind, which moved from northwest to southeast at around 5 pm local time, was "an unplanned treat", said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

InSight's seismometer captured the vibrations. Shown are the lander's arm (top), its 2.2 metre wide solar panel, one of its two TWINS temperature and wind sensors (left of centre), its UHF antenna (bottom centre), its SEIS seimometer (bottom left), and the white dome (centre left) now covers its pressure sensor.

"This is the first time on the surface of Mars that we've had instruments that can detect up to the frequency that humans can hear", Tom Pike, a scientist on the InSight project who focuses on the sensors, said during a news conference unveiling the recording.

NASA describes the sounds as a "haunting low rumble". In some cases, they have been raised an octave in order to be perceptible to the human ear.

The first sounds ever recorded on Mars have been beamed back to Earth. 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.