When NASA’s Rover Perseverance landed boldly on the red planet, you may have noticed that its parachute had an unusual arrangement of red-and-white chevrons.
It turned out that this pattern was not random at all, but a hidden code. Within just six hours, internet thefts broke into him, revealing a wonderfully uplifting message: “Dare Mighty Things”.
The term has been used for years as the motto of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), taken from a speech by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1899:
“It is far better to dare to do powerful things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered by failure, than to be among those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, for they live in a gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
The hidden message was first mentioned live by NASA systems engineer Allen Chen, who commented: “In addition to enabling amazing science, we hope our efforts and engineering will inspire others. Sometimes in our work we leave messages for others to find for that purpose. So we invite you to try and show your work. “
The first solution appears to have been posted online by IT student Abel Paf on Twitter. The message, he said, was decoded by him and his father, who determined that the chevrons were placed in concentric rings encoding a 10-bit pattern.
– Abela_Paf (@FrenchTech_paf) February 22, 2021
“Each binary number encodes a position in the alphabet, starting with 1,” he explained. “For the word ‘powerful,’ we just have to start counting 40 bits later and that would be correct.”
If the red parts are 1s and the white ones 0s, the rings can be broken down into blocks representing numbers. Then add the number 64. So the first letter in the code is 0000000100, which gives you the number 4. Add 64 to get the 68 – ASCII code for the capital letter D.
This explains the inner three rings. On the other hand, the outer ring displays letters and numbers: 34 11 58 N 118 10 31 W. They are published on reddit by the user tend0g, the geographical coordinates are for JPL – 34 ° 11’58 “N 118 ° 10 ’31” W .
Chief Perseverance Engineer Adam Steltzner of NASA JPL confirmed the solution.
– Adam Steltzner (@steltzner) February 23, 2021
That, however, is not the only secret message of Perseverance.
The rays of the Sun on a poster containing a chip with the names and messages of Earthlings are found in the Morse code, uttering the phrase “Explore as one”. And tucked on a plate on its chassis is a family portrait of all NASA Martian rovers: Traveler, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance and Ingenuity.
Some of you have noticed the special message I carry to Mars along with the 10.9+ million names you all sent. “Explore as one” is written in the Morse code in the sun’s rays, which connect our home planet with the one I will “explore. Together we persevere. Https://t.co/Bsv1mqpxlA pic.twitter.com/GhcS1HgsIN
– NASA’s persistent Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 30, 2020
Curiosity is not without secrets. The pattern on the rover wheels is also Morse code, writing JPL. In fact, sending encrypted messages into space on our research ships is something of a tradition.
As Allen Chen noted for The Verge, perseverance could be interwoven with many more secrets.
“People can’t resist bringing a little personal touch into their work,” he said. “But the vast majority of them will never be known – not even to me.”