Predicting the state of the world in 2014 after a visit to the 1964 World's Fair, Isaac Asimov wrote that "only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony." While we haven't seen a Futurama show in some time (other than the one created by Matt Groening), he was certainly right about those unmanned ships, the latest of which, four years after the one about which he prophesied, has just picked up the first sounds ever recorded on the Red Planet. You can hear it, preferably with the use of a subwoofer or a pair of capably bass-reproducing headphones, in the video above.
"That’s the sound of winds blowing across NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, the first sounds recorded from the red planet," writes the New York Times' Kenneth Chang. "It’s all the more remarkable because InSight — which landed last week — does not have a microphone."
Instead it picked up this rumble, which NASA describes as "caused by vibrations from the wind, estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph (5 to 7 meters a second)," with its seismometer and air pressure sensor right there on Mars' Elysium Planitia where it landed. "The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit."
Science fiction enthusiasts will note that InSight's recording of Martian wind, especially in the more easily audible pitched-up versions included in the video, sounds not unlike the way certain films and television shows have long imagined the sonic ambience of Mars. NASA didn't launch InSight to test the theories implicitly presented by Hollywood sound designers — rather, to collect data on the formation of Mars and other rocky planets, as well as to check for the presence of liquid water — but they will equip the next Martian landers they send out in 2020 with proper microphones, and not just one but two of them. Among other scientific tasks, writes Big Think's Stephen Johnson, those microphones will be equipped to "listen to what happens when the craft fires a laser at rocks on the surface." Back here on Earth, one question looms above all others: which musician will be the first to sample all this?
via Big Think
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.