NASA Hid a Secret Message in the Mars Perseverance Rover's Parachute
There are Easter eggs on Mars.
NASA put a code in the colorful parachute that deployed as part of the rover's "seven minutes of terror," speeding from the top of the Martian atmosphere down to the Jezero Crater. Of course, NASA didn't divulge what the code was right away. Nonetheless, it didn't take long for rover-loving internet sleuths to decode the message stowed in the colors of the parachute.
"You might notice the pattern that's on the parachute here," said Allen Chen, Perseverance's entry, descent, and landing lead, per CNN. "Distinct patterns are useful in helping us determine the clocking orientation of the parachute. Also, the contrasting sections can be useful in tracking different portions of the parachute as it inflates. In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts and our engineering can inspire others. Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose. So, we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work."
Adam Steltzner, the rover's chief engineer, applauded the speedy effort of people unraveling the code online. He also shared a graphic that illuminates how the message was hidden in the parachute. "It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours," he tweeted. "Oh internet is there anything you can't do?"
The parachute holds two messages. The inspiring one mentioned by Chen reads, "Dare mighty things." Around the perimeter of the parachute, you'll find the GPS coordinates of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
"Dare mighty things" isn't a reference to that delicious Brewing Projekt beer, but a Theodore Roosevelt quote. "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
The binary code pattern that hid the message in the parachute's gores was the idea of Ian Clark, the rover's systems engineer. "The brain child of Ian Clark- who has done anything the project asked him to do, whether it was lead, develop, and execute a supersonic parachute test program, prove the cleanliness of the sampling system, or support EDL operations," Chen tweeted. "All around sharp and selfless dude."
As CNN notes, this isn't the first Easter egg we've seen from NASA, and the mission team for Perseverance has hinted that more will be revealed in images from Perseverance in the future.