The parachute that helped NASA’s Perseverance rover land on Mars last week unfurled to reveal a seemingly random pattern of colors in video clips of the rover’s landing. But there was more to the story: NASA officials later said it contained a hidden message written in binary computer code.
Internet sleuths cracked the message within hours. The red and white pattern spelled out “Dare Mighty Things” in concentric rings. The saying is the Perseverance team’s motto, and it is also emblazoned on the walls of Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the mission team’s Southern California headquarters.
The parachute’s outer ring appears to translate to coordinates for JPL: 34°11’58” N 118°10’31” W.
Allen Chen, the entry, descent, and landing lead for Perseverance, dared the public to figure the message out during a press conference on Monday. “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 shot and show your work.”
Adam Steltzner, Perseverance’s chief engineer, confirmed the message late Monday night on Twitter.
It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours! Oh internet is there anything you can’t do? For those who just want to know: #Mars2020 #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/yTJCEnbuLY
— Adam Steltzner (@steltzner) February 23, 2021