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NASA InSight Lander Sends Back Audio Of Martian Winds

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NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars. The U.S. space agency released an audio sample featuring the winds from the surface of the Red Planet.   ( NASA/JPL-Caltech )

InSight, NASA's newest Mars lander, is letting humans on Earth hear the sound of wind in the Red Planet for the first time.

Winds Of Mars

Sort of. The probe's instruments detected vibrations of the Martian air over its solar panels in frequency that human ears can hear. On Friday, Dec, 7, the U.S. space agency released the audio that can be streamed on YouTube.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," stated Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator behind InSight. "But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves."

The space agency has released an audio sample raised two octaves higher to be audible when heard through a laptop and mobile devices speakers. However, the unaltered audio sample from the seismometer is also available.

Tom Spike, a scientist who is also working behind the project, explained that InSight is the first Martian probe that can detect in frequencies that human ears can hear.

"The solar panels on the lander's sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind," he added. "It's like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it."

According to NASA, the wind that the sensor captured was estimated to be blowing at about 10 to 15 mph from northwest to southwest. The data was recorded on Dec. 1.

The lander is not rigged to listen to the winds blowing on the surface of Mars. However, the sensitive seismometer and air pressure sensor still awaiting deployment detected vibrations. Soon, though, the instruments will not be able to detect the vibrations directed by the lander because, in a few weeks, they will be covered with a domed shield to protect their data from influences of wind and temperature changes.

NASA's next mission, the still unnamed Mars 2020 rover, will have high-quality microphones that can record the ambiance noise from the surface of the Red Planet in addition to its descent and landing.

InSight's Mission On Mars

InSight, which is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, touched down at its new home in the Elysium Planitia on Nov. 26 at exactly 11:52 a.m. PST.

With the lander, NASA hopes to study the "vital signs" of Earth's neighboring planet, including its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow), and "reflexes" (precision tracking). The lander will also measure the tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars.

InSight is the first Martian lander to study the "inner space" of the planet in-depth. Its primary mission is expected to last for one Martian year or two Earth years.

For now, however, the lander is still on the process of unfurling and booting its sophisticated scientific equipment in preparation for its mission.

 

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