- NASA hid a coded message on its Mars Perseverance rover, and internet sleuths quickly picked up on it.
- On the aluminum plate attached to the rover, an etching of the Sun includes “rays” that are actually morse code.
- The message reads “Explore As One.”
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NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will include a secret coded message that no extraterrestrial life form — or most humans, for that matter — can read. The quaint message is etched into an aluminum plate that is affixed to the side of the rover itself, and it sits alongside the trio of tiny chips that hold the names of almost 11 million science fans here on Earth.
NASA first released images of the plate in celebration of the names being added to the rover, but sharp-eyed science fans quickly realized that there was something special hiding in the intricate design of the aluminum plate. Now, NASA is formally acknowledging the addition of the slogan “Explore As One,” which is written in Morse code on the plate.
“Some of you spotted the special message I’m carrying to Mars along with the 10.9+ million names you all sent in,” NASA’s Perseverance rover account tweeted. “‘Explore As One’ is written in Morse code in the Sun’s rays, which connect our home planet with the one I’ll explore. Together, we persevere.”
Some of you spotted the special message I’m carrying to Mars along with the 10.9+ million names you all sent in. “Explore As One” is written in Morse code in the Sun’s rays, which connect our home planet with the one I'll explore. Together, we persevere. https://t.co/Bsv1mqpxlA pic.twitter.com/GhcS1HgsIN
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 30, 2020
It’s a pleasant message of unity, and it comes at a time when the world as a whole could really use something uplifting. The Perseverance rover, its 10.9 million names, and its coded message are still scheduled to leave Earth in July, despite the ongoing global health crisis.
It was just a few weeks ago that NASA was forced to begin placing some of its centers on lockdown due to staff with positive coronavirus tests. Eventually, the agency decided it would be best to lock down all of its centers and allow only mission-critical personnel to work on-site, forcing the rest of its huge workforce to do what they can from home.
NASA has kept the public updated on its moves in a timely manner, noting which missions are likely to see delays and which ones are still on track. Thankfully, the Mars 2020 mission is still a go, but that’s no guarantee it will remain that way. Unfortunately, any delay to the launch would mean pushing back the entire mission by years. If Perseverance can’t launch in 2020, NASA won’t get another shot at it until 2022.
Due to the nature of the orbits of Mars and Earth, the two planets are only close enough for a launch every couple of years. It would be a huge bummer to see Perseverance sit in wait for another two years, so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that the high-tech rover will be able to head skyward in just a few months.