NASA's InSight lander 'hears' Martian winds

Xinhua
NASA's InSight lander, which touched down on Mars last week, has provided the first ever "sounds" of Martian winds on the Red Planet.
Xinhua
AFP

In this image obtained from NASA, InSight's robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft's deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. The color-calibrated picture was acquired on December 4, 2018 Humans can now hear the haunting, low rumble of wind on Mars for the first time, after NASA's InSight lander captured vibrations from the breeze on the Red Planet, the US space agency said on December 7, 2018.


NASA's InSight lander, which touched down on Mars last week, has provided the first ever "sounds" of Martian winds on the Red Planet, said NASA on Friday.

InSight sensors captured a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind, estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph (5 to 7 meters a second) on December 1, from northwest to southeast, according to NASA.

The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit, said NASA.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves."

According to NASA, two very sensitive sensors on the spacecraft detected these wind vibrations: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander's deck, awaiting deployment by InSight's robotic arm.

The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor, which will collect meteorological data, recorded these air vibrations directly. The seismometer recorded lander vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft's solar panels, which are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter and stick out from the sides of the lander like a giant pair of ears.

This is the only phase of the mission during which the seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, will be capable of detecting vibrations generated directly by the lander, said NASA.

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. It will detect the lander's movement through the Martian surface, said NASA.

SEIS is recording vibrational data that scientists later will be able to use to cancel out noise from the lander when SEIS is on the surface, allowing them to detect better actual marsquakes.

With a reach of nearly 6 feet (2 meters), the arm of inSight will be used to pick up science instruments from the lander's deck, gently setting them on the Martian surface at Elysium Planitia, the lava plain where InSight touched down.

The arm will use its Instrument Deployment Camera, located on its elbow, to take photos of the terrain in front of the lander. These images will help mission team members determine where to set SEIS and heat flow probe, the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet, said NASA.

Another camera, called the Instrument Context Camera, located under the lander's deck, will also offer views of the workspace.

InSight landed safely on Mars on November 26, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet.

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