Newsflash: Titan sounds like old Atari 2600 games

Being somewhat of a space nerd, I’ve been following the progress of the Huygens probe mission for the last few days (besides, watching space press conferences streaming via the web is more fun than working, even if they are largely in French and German).

One of the instruments on the Huygens was essentially a microphone, and in addition to the pictures that look like they were taken with a first generation Logitech webcam, the ESA have released MP3s of sounds recorded through the microphone. I was anxious to hear what another planet sounded like… boy was I shocked to learn it sounded a lot like the bleeps and hisses that passed for sound in the old Atari 2600 game console from the 70’s and 80’s.

(for those of you either too young, too old, or simply not geeky enough to have wasted many hours playing Atari 2600 games, here’s a soundclip to compare.)

Man was I disappointed. If anything, I would have expected the otherworldly sounds of a theremin.


  1. It’s kinda neat that seven years ago they sent the thing up hitchhiking off a rocket ship from which it bailed out month ago and now it’s sending back images & sounds. I always count on space probes getting lost and then all the tales of disappointment at Mission Control aired on “All Things Considered.”

    I expect I’ve gotten a little jaded on space missions, because I usually don’t pay attention. So I’m surprised to admit that I got an adrenaline spike when the first Huygens images showed up on the net.

    For whatever reason — probably your brilliant Atari/Titan sound montage — I find myself daydreaming about some kind of Heechee mission. . .

  2. It is really neat. Considering the problems we’ve had lobbing expensive hardware to Mars (see… to check our current score) which is just next door, relatively speaking, having this mission go off so well is stunning. Mars has eaten 50% of the missions sent to it.

    Of course, the stakes were higher in the Cassini-Huygens mission… ($3 billion, and 7 years just to get there, compared to about $300 million and around a year to get both Opportunity and Spirit to Mars). With an order of magnitude more in cost, you can bet every little detail is being checked and rechecked.

    The Huygens probe actually came very close to total failure even before it started its descent. If it wasn’t for a Swedish engineer’s insistance that there be an actual field trial of the transmitter/recier combination, the probe’s data would have been irretrievably lost due to doppler shift (see…) for details).

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