The massive parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, courtesy of a puzzle enthusiast from the spacecraft team.
Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out Dare Mighty Things in the orange and white stripes of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. It also included the GPS coordinates of the mission headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Clark, a crossword lover, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Making it a secret message was super fun, ”he said on Tuesday.
According to Clark, only about six people knew of the encoded message before the Thursday landing. They waited for images of the parachute to return before releasing a teaser at a televised press conference on Monday.
It only took a few hours for space fans to figure it out, Clark said. Next time, he noted, I will have to be a little more creative.
Dare Mighty Things a phrase from President Theodore Roosevelt is a mantra at JPL and adorns many walls in the center. The trick was to try to find a way to encode it but not to make it too obvious, ”Clark said.
As for the GPS coordinates, the spot is 3 meters from the entrance to the JPL reception center.
Another little-known extra touch until Landing: Perseverance bears a plaque depicting NASA’s five Martian rovers growing in size over the years, similar to decals of family cars seen on Earth.
Clark suspects there are even more so-called hidden Easter eggs, but adds: I’m not even aware of them. “
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