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Winds of Mars

That’s the sound of the winds of Mars, recorded by the Perseverance rover after it landed in February. It’s the first direct recording of sounds in the Martian atmosphere.

Scientists have been monitoring the Martian winds off and on for decades. Most American landers have included a weather station. Today, there are three working landers with weather stations.

Most of the time, the wind is tame, with speeds of only a few miles per hour. But during winter it gets a little friskier. And for the InSight lander, that’s too much — the wind can overpower the faint rumblings of marsquakes, which InSight is designed to study.

In one way, though, the wind hasn’t been strong enough. Scientists were hoping that dust devils might blow the dust from Insight’s solar panels. By earlier this year, though, they hadn’t. So InSight’s workload was cut back — including shutting down its weather station — until Mars moves closer to the Sun, which will provide more life-giving sunlight.

Sometimes, the wind stirs up giant dust storms. Some of them can cover most of the planet, driven by winds of 60 miles per hour or stronger. In 2017, such a storm darkened the sky enough to kill the solar-powered Opportunity rover.

Perseverance and the other working rover, Curiosity, don’t have to worry about that. They use nuclear power — protecting them from the vagaries of the Martian winds.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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