NASA's InSight lander 'hears' wind on Mars


"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat", InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said.

This is the only time when vibrations from the lander will be recorded by the seismometer, since it will be moved by the craft's robotic armed and placed on the Martian surface, along with other instruments. InSight's seismometer and air pressure sensor detected the vibrations from the Martian wind earlier this month.

InSight landed on the plains of Elysium Planitia on November 26, nearly seven months after leaving Earth.

During the first few weeks in its new home, InSight has been instructed to be extra careful, so anything unexpected will trigger what's called a fault. And now, the team behind the mission has turned the first bits of that data into an incredible new soundtrack, which you can hear in a new video, released today (Dec. 7).

InSight's "sound" data is fascinating, but it's just a preview of grander NASA plans when it comes to audio from Mars.

An upcoming mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will have two microphones on board for clearer sound recording. These vibrations were created by wind passing over the spacecraft's large solar arrays, NASA officials said.

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InSight's seismometer and another sensor picked up the noise, and it was not planned.

The wind is estimated to be blowing at between 10 and 15mph.

The "really unworldly" sounds from InSight, meanwhile, have Banerdt imaging he's "on a planet that's in some ways like the Earth, but in some ways really alien".

Once the deployment is complete, InSight's measuring instruments and probes will hopefully give us more data about Mars's interiors, including the planet's seismic tremors and how heat flows through its structure. NASA shared two copies of the wind recording, one as it was captured and another adjusted for playback on phones and laptops. The robot has a lot of work ahead of it, but things always start slowly when you're handling a machine remotely from another planet.

In the meantime, the sounds of the Martian wind are a poignant reminder of just how far InSight has flown: more than 300 million miles (480 million kilometers), becoming only the eighth spacecraft to successfully touch down on the Red Planet.