The parachute that landed Perseverance on planet Mars contained a hidden message. Only about six people were aware of it before the rover’s successful landing.
NASA’s scientists later confirmed that the parachute has a secret code after the US space agency shared the video that Perseverance took during its descent to the Martian surface on Feb. 18.
Secret message on Perseverance parachute
During a press conference on Feb. 22, Allen Chen, the Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) Lead for the Mars 2020 project, hinted that they left a secret message on the parachute for others to decode.
“In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts in our engineering can inspire others,” he said. “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.”
It did not take long before puzzle enthusiasts decoded the secret message. Maxence Abela, a computer and IT student at Epitech in Paris, worked with his father, Jerome, a software engineer, to unveil the secret message.
They noticed that the parachute’s seemingly random pattern has two colors and four concentric circles and suspected that the message was written in binary code.
“Dare mighty things“
After translating the reddish-orange patches and the white patches to ones and zeroes and using the right counting scheme, the duo eventually cracked the secret message: “Dare mighty things”.
The phrase is taken from President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Strenuous Life” speech and is the motto at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). After decoding the message, Maxence decided to share the solution on Twitter.
Perseverance chief engineer Adam Steltzner was amazed at how puzzle enthusiasts like Maxence and his father quickly decoded the hidden message. In a tweet, he confirmed the secret message and shared the solution.
Chen said that there could be other secret messages that Perseverance engineers may have placed on the rover.
“People can’t resist putting a little personal touch in their work,” Chen said. “But the vast majority of these will never be known — even by me.”