NASA's InSight lander 'hears' wind on Mars

InSight is designed 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

NASA estimates the winds were blowing slowly at around "5 to 7 meters a second" from the northwest to the southeast of the surface of the planet on December 1.

It's been almost two weeks since NASA successfully landed its InSIght lander on Mars and the craft is getting ready to start its important work on the planet. But this is the first time we've ever heard what Mars sounds like.

How?: NASA explained that the audio is wind vibrations picked up by two sensors on the lander and not an actual recording from a microphone. "We want to be sure that each operation that we perform on Mars is safe, so we set our safety monitors to be fairly sensitive initially". The air sensor recorded air vibrations, while the seismometer recorded the lander's vibrations from the wind blowing across its large solar panels.

"We're all still on a high from the landing last week. and here we are less than two weeks after landing, and we've already got some awesome new science", said NASA's Lori Glaze, acting director of planetary science.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat", said Bruce Banerdt, a NASA investigator of the mission.

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The solar panels on the lander's sides are ideal acoustic receivers. "But one of the things [the InSight mission] is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves".

Nasa said that the air pressure sensor used to collect meteorological data recorded these air vibrations directly. When InSight is conducting its science mission, the seismometer won't be able to hear the wind, attuned only to the grumblings of the planet's interior.

The first sounds ever recorded on Mars have been beamed back to Earth. "When we looked at the direction of the lander vibrations coming from the solar panels, it matches the expected wind direction at our landing site". In a few weeks, it will be placed on the Martian surface by InSight's robotic arm, then covered by a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes.

The InSight landing marked the eighth time in human history where a spacecraft has successfully landed on Mars.

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