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NASA spacecraft captures 'unworldly' sound of wind on Mars

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By Darin Graham
The NASA InSight spacecraft pictured on Mars
The NASA InSight spacecraft pictured on Mars   -   Copyright  NASA/JPL-Caltech

A spacecraft that touched down on Mars ten days ago to conduct experiments and measure 'marsquakes' has recorded the first ever sounds of Martian winds.

NASA's InSight Lander captured a low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind on the red planet.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt, a NASA investigator of the mission. "But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves."

The winds blowing across the spacecraft is the first sounds recorded from Mars, NASA said. But InSight is not equipped with a microphone, rather, the sound was detected by sensors and a seismometer to measure sound waves.

“The InSight lander acts like a giant ear,” said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College London.

"The solar panels on the lander's sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It's like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. 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."

The sensors behave like the cochlea, a part of the ear that converts vibrations to nerve signals.

NASA released the raw audio sample and a second version that was raised by two octaves. This can be heard better by the human ear, especially through laptops or mobile speakers.

"To me, the sounds are really unworldly,” Banerdt said. “They do sound like the wind or maybe the ocean kind of roaring in the background. But it also has an unworldly feel to it.”