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NASA hid a message in its recent Mars rover landing

Published Feb 25th, 2021 6:49PM EST
secret mars message
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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  • NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover landing was a huge event last week, but there was probably something you missed.
  • During the landing, cameras affixed to the rover’s descent hardware captured images of the massive parachute with a very unique pattern.
  • It didn’t take long for internet sleuths to decipher the code and figure out what it really said.

There were a lot of things to pay attention to during the landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars last week. NASA’s own commentary of the landing was top-notch, as was the computerized model that showed what the rover was doing at any given moment and how far away it was from the ground. In the days that followed, we finally got a look at the video of the landing shot by onboard cameras, and it held a secret.

One of the more interesting segments of the video was the brief shot of the rover’s massive parachute opening to slow its descent. The red and white pattern on the parachute was eye-catching, but as NASA recently revealed, it was actually a coded message.

The parachute’s pattern was actually binary code. NASA systems engineer Ian Clark decided to have some fun with the parachute’s design, and quick-witted science fans rapidly decoded the message. It spelled out the phrase “Dare Mighty Things,” which was a nod to President Theodore Roosevelt and it’s a tagline that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory often uses as a sort of unofficial mission statement.

During the landing video reveal, Clark noted that revealing what the parachute said wasn’t even really needed, as internet viewers were able to figure it out within hours. “I’ll have to be a little bit more creative [next time],” Clark reportedly said.

It’s definitely a cool little touch, but it’s not the only hidden secret that NASA included with the rover and the Mars 2020 mission. The rover also has stickers of its rover brethren on its massive body, and NASA didn’t reveal that until the rover was already safe and sound on Mars. Even more exciting, NASA says that some of the rover’s secrets haven’t been found yet.

Clark urged fans of the mission and NASA to “keep a good lookout” for additional secrets that may be visible as NASA continues to release new images and videos from the rover. We can’t possibly know what to expect, but if they’re as cool as the binary message we’re definitely looking forward to spotting them.

The Perseverance mission is expected to last several years, and if it’s anything like its rover ancestors it may live significantly longer than it was designed to, giving us a decade or more of awesome observations and new discoveries from the Red Planet. It’s definitely an exciting time to be a science fan.