CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – 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 21-meter (70-foot) 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. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said on Tuesday.
Only about six people knew about the coded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. 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 line by 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 without making 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 wears a plaque depicting NASA’s five rovers on Mars growing over the years – similar to decals of family cars seen on Earth.
Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace promises more so-called hidden Easter eggs. They should be visible once Perseverance’s 7-foot (2-meter) arm deploys in a few days and begins photographing under the vehicle, and again when the rover is driving in a few weeks.
“Definitely, should definitely keep a good watch,” he urged.
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