Nobody knows what those sounds will be like. Though we have pictures and even film from Mars, the arrival of the $165m (pounds 100m) Mars Polar Lander - scheduled to land on 3 December - will mark the first time that the sounds of another planet have been heard here.
The instrument that will pick up the sound of the alien atmosphere is not, however, a miracle of precision engineering by the US space agency Nasa, which developed the Lander. Instead, it is privately funded, has no clearly defined scientific mission, and is made from off-the-shelf parts.
Winning space on the crowded lander cost $50,000 (pounds 30,000), which was paid for by donations from the 100,000 members of the Planetary Society. Louis Friedman, executive director of the society, said: "This is going to be another way of getting another sense on Mars - and a sense of Mars. We sense there will be a lot of noises to listen to and what they will allow us to discover we're not sure yet."
The instrument's parts include a computer sound chip commonly found in toys and a hearing-aid microphone half the size of a pea, which will record sound at about the same quality as a telephone. The whole unit weighs less than 60 grams. "When we presented that to Nasa, it was an offer they couldn't refuse because it wouldn't cost them anything, it was privately funded and was for educational purposes," Dr Friedman said.
Millions of people logged on to the Internet in 1997 to download pictures of the planet from the Sojourner Rover, the remote-controlled buggy taken to the red planet by the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. If Polar Lander mission is successful, the sounds will be posted on the Planetary Society's website, www.planetary.org.Reuse content