NASA shock: Scientists left baffled as Mars spacecraft picks up ‘mystery’ sounds on planet

Since landing on the red planet last November, the lander’s seismometer has recorder over 100 rumblings. The first of these occurred in April and was described by NASA scientists as “quiet but distinct shaking.” Experts concluded that the noises were caused by tremors, which soon became known as “marsquakes”.

However, they believe that marsquakes can only account for 21 of the various sounds and noises picked up by the rover’s seismometer since then, leading to speculation as to what they could be.

NASA’s Mars team has identified some of the recordings as Martian wind and the mechanical movements of the seismometer’s arm.

The others they describe as “dinks and donks”, by which they mean the expansion and contraction of parts inside the seismometer, possibly due to heat loss.

In one of the sound samples, a strange whistling can also be heard.





The researchers think that this is interference with the electronics in the seismometer.

Constantinos Charalambous, from Imperial College London, who worked on the audio recordings, said: “It has been exciting, especially in the beginning, hearing the first vibrations from the lander.

“You’re imagining what’s really happening on Mars as InSight sits on the open landscape.”

InSight is a two-year mission to explore Mars’ deep interior, which scientists know least about.


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The lander is equipped with specialist geophysical instruments that measures the planet’s seismology and its wobble as the sun and its moon tug on Mars.

However, not all is going as planned, as the mission experienced its first major glitch.

A German-made driller was meant to dig 16ft below the surface but has managed barely 1ft – not enough to fulfil its purpose: measuring the planet’s internal temperature.

It is not yet clear how the digger got stuck but scientists think the sand does not have enough friction for digging, meaning the “mole” has dug a pit around itself rather than digging deeper.


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Earlier this year, NASA received a huge boost to its long-term goal of sending humans to Mars, when US President Donald Trump signed a bill authorising $19.5 billion in funding for the organisation.

Trump has challenged NASA to put humans on Mars, tweeting back in June that the space organisation “should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars.”

NASA’s top administrator, Jim Bridenstine, has not ruled out a first human mission to Mars as soon as 2033.



In a media briefing about the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 back in July, Mr Bridenstine said: “We are working right now, in fact, to put together a comprehensive plan on how we would conduct a Mars mission using the technologies that we will be proving at the moon.”

When asked about a feasible date for a first human mission to Mars, he replied: “I am not willing to rule out 2033 at all.”

For several years, Mars exploration advocates have proposed human missions to Mars, either to orbit the planet or land on its surface in 2033, citing a particularly favourable trajectory available that year.



However, a report prepared by the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), as requested by Congress in the 2017 NASA authorisation act, concluded that a human Mars mission in 2033 was not feasible using NASA’s current architecture.

Mr Bridenstine rejected the report’s conclusions, saying “I think there were assumptions in that report that maybe not everybody agrees with.

“I think there are alternatives out there that enable a Mars mission in 2033.”