NASA lander captures first recorded sounds of Mars

InSight lander solar panel
A raw image from NASA’s InSight lander shows the spacecraft’s robotic arm in the foreground, hanging over a solar panel. The terrain of Mars’ Elysium Planitia stretches out in the background. The colors look muted because they haven’t been fully calibrated. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

NASA’s Mars InSight lander is designed primarily to study the Red Planet’s interior, but it’s already produced a big bonus in the form of the first listenable sounds of the Martian wind.

The low-frequency sounds, plus an audio version that’s been bumped up a couple of octaves to enhance listenability, were released today by the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Cornell University’s Don Banfield, who leads the science team for InSight’s Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem, or APSS, said the sound “reminds me of sitting outside on a windy afternoon.”

The Dec. 1 detection took advantage of several components of the car-sized lander, including its solar panels.

“You can think of it rather in the same way as the human ear,” said Imperial College London’s Tom Pike, the science lead for InSight’s Short Period Seismometer.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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