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Sound From Mars Heard For First Time On Earth

08 December 2018

NASA's InSight Mars lander, which touched down on the red planet last week, captured a bassy vibrating rumble deflecting off the lander's 7-foot solar panels. "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".

"But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves", Bruce Banerdt, the InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. But the ICC, located underneath the lander's deck, is demonstrating that Mars is still unpredictable. The air sensor recorded air vibrations, while the seismometer recorded the lander's vibrations from the wind blowing across its large solar panels. "It's been 130 years since the first seismic record on Earth and nearly 50 years since a seismometer was placed on the Moon during the Apollo program".

But while the instruments on InSight can capture data in human-friendly frequencies, higher-pitched sounds don't travel well on Mars. "They do sound like the wind or maybe the ocean roaring in the background, but it also has kind of an unworldly feel to it".

InSight lander's sensors are created to detect quakes and air pressure through wind vibrations. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. Readings from the air pressure sensor have been sped up by a factor of 100 times to make them audible.

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The solar panels on the lander's sides are ideal acoustic receivers.

This is the only phase of the mission during which the seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), will be capable of detecting vibrations generated directly by the lander. "These images will help mission team members determine where to set InSight's seismometer and heat flow probe - the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet". It still will detect the lander's movement, though channeled through the Martian surface. "It's going to become very hard to hear the sounds from the outside of Mars later on".

Keep watching for more to come from InSight!

Sound From Mars Heard For First Time On Earth