NASA’s Mars Rover Parachute’s Hidden Message Decoded

NASA's Mars Rover Parachute

Internet sleuths have decoded a hidden message on the parachute of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on the surface of Mars last week.

After more than 6 months of racing toward the Red Planet at 12,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Perseverance rover triumphantly landed on Mars’ Jezero Crater at about 3:56 p.m. EST/12:56 p.m. PST on February 18, 2021. The onboard cameras recorded some exciting footage of the rover’s entry, descent, and landing suite, which involved the deployment of a mysterious parachute.

The inflated parachute can be located at around 0:15. The camera gives a complete view of the red-and-white design of the parachute, showing different lengths of colored columns shown in concentric rings. While many viewers moved along to the landing itself, other eagle-eyed viewers paused the video to check the frame and decipher the pattern of the parachute.

Jalopnik picked up on a tweet from @FrenchTech_paf that revealed “Dare mighty things” to be the secret message that was inscribed in the parachute. “Dare mighty things” is the motto used by the Perseverance team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the research and development center that served as headquarters for the Perseverance rover mission.

An explanation of how the code was cracked was also provided. It was first established that the colored striping was probably binary code, with the red panels representing the number one and the white panels representing zeros. The numbers were then organized into groups of ten, ring by ring, to create 10-bit patterns that could be equated to the alphabet by working in numerical order.

Fortunately, MIT-engineer turned Emmy-nominated science TV host Emily Calandrelli shared a simplified breakdown of how to decode the message on the parachute. Calandrelli posted the insightful video shortly after @FrenchTech_paf shared his revelation, and it is the best explanation that you could find on the subject. So if you’re interested in the specifics of cracking the cipher, give that a watch:

NASA’s Perseverance’s chief engineer, Adam Steltzner, also confirmed the message on Tuesday on Twitter. He shared a helpful graphic to perfectly illustrate the explanation of the code, showing exactly how the wording emerges on the parachute. “It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours!” he tweeted alongside the image. “Oh internet is there anything you can’t do?”

Perseverance was launched on July 30, 2020, and landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. It’s expected to stay on the planet for at least one Mars year, which is the equivalent of 687 Earth days.

The Perseverance rover’s mission is to seek signs of habitable conditions for life on Mars and to search for signs of past microbial life as well. It’s not only equipped with a microphone to let NASA and the world know what it sounds like on Mars, but it’s also equipped with a special drill that will collect core samples of rocks and soil on the Red Planet, which will eventually be brought back to Earth.


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