What's the weather on Mars? How NASA's InSight lander will find out

By Sarah Lewin
December 18, 2018, 10:53:35 AM EST


NASA's new Mars lander isn't quite ready to probe the Red Planet's interior yet, but it's starting to get the lay of the land on the surface — and in the atmosphere. The InSight lander is already deploying its powerful meteorology package to monitor the Red Planet's weather.

InSight touched down on the Martian surface Nov. 26, and since then it has been carefully analyzing its environment and setting up its sensitive suite of instruments. The mission's seismometer still sits on the lander's deck, measuring InSight's vibrations rather than the planet's, and the heat-sensing mole remains undeployed as well. But the lander's meteorology suite is already gearing up to measure the pressure, temperature and three-dimensional wind patterns on the Red Planet.

Part of that suite — the pressure sensor — played a starring role in new "sounds from Mars" recently released by the InSight team. That sensor and the seismometer both caught the vibrations of wind rushing across the instrument deck and the seismometer's protective cover.

mars weather

A still from NASA's Experience InSight app shows the instrument deck with the seismometer's cover still over the pressure sensor inlet; eventually that metal shield will be placed over the seismometer on the Martian surface.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"We're still getting our feet underneath us on this mission, but it's fun to put out some of this early stuff that keeps us excited," said Don Banfield, a co-investigator on InSight's science team and researcher at Cornell University.

"It's actually a bit surprising how much science you can extract from these instruments, even when they're in a configuration they aren't finally intended to be," he told Space.com.

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