Netizens decode message hidden in NASA's Perseverance rover's parachute
The parachute unfurled during the final descent of NASA's Perseverance rover had random pattern of red and white bands, on the face of it. NASA officials later said it contained an encoded message. Within six hours, people on the internet decoded the message which read "Dare Mighty Things". Closer inspection of other Perseverance mission pictures reveals additional hidden details.
Parachute's pattern reads 'Dare Mighty Things,' includes NASA JPL's coordinates
Starting from the center and moving outwards, decoding each ring of the parachute in the clockwise direction reveals a message hidden in binary computer code. The message reads "Dare Mighty Things 34 deg 11 min 58 sec N 118 deg 10 min 31 sec W". The latitude and longitude correspond to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the motto also belongs to the same organization.
Parachute's binary code corresponds to ASCII character codes
The colors represent zeros and ones, which must be split up into groups of ten. Adding 64 to those ten characters gives you a computer ASCII code corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. For example, seven white bands, a red band, and then two white bands represent 0000000100, the binary for four. Adding 64 to that gives 68, the ASCII code for "D".
Perseverance member announced hidden message; Code cracked in six hours
Although it isn't clear who decoded the message first, posts were spotted on NASA's subreddit and on Twitter. JPL's motto "Dare Mighty Things" originates from a Theodore Roosevelt speech in 1899. Entry, descent, and landing (EDL) lead for Perseverance, Allen Chen announced the possibility of a hidden message on Monday. Later that day, Perseverance's chief engineer, Adam Steltzner confirmed the decoded message was correct.
Family portrait of Mars rovers discovered in pictures of Perseverance
Following this, people took a closer look at several Perseverance rover images. A tiny family portrait of the past rovers, Perseverance, and the Ingenuity helicopter was spotted. The Curiosity rover which landed on Mars in 2012 also carried a hidden message. It had holes in its aluminium wheels to allow Martian pebbles caught inside to escape. The holes read "JPL" in Morse Code.
Perseverance also pays tribute to pandemic frontline workers
There are 10.9 million names and 155 essays contained in special microchips aboard the rover. These were collected through competitions to send names to Mars and to name the rover. Perseverance also carries an aluminium plate depicting the Rod of Asclepius, the Greek symbol for healing and medicine. It is to honor the work of frontline healthcare professionals during the pandemic.