Monday, August 2, 2021

How Alert Netizens Deciphered NASA’s Secret Message On Mars Rover Parachute

US space agency NASA’s secret message on the parachute of its Perseverance rover was decoded by ‘internet sleuths’ within hours of its landing on Mars. On February 18, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, making it the most advanced rover that the space agency has sent to the red planet to date.

The responsibilities of the latest rover are different from any other Mars mission, as it will be collecting Martian samples.

However, the process of bringing these samples back to Earth is not likely to happen before 2031, and NASA is collaborating with its various centers and the European Space Agency (ESA) to make the mission successful.

While the rover is tasked with collecting sample rocks, it is also supposed to actively look for sciences of microbial life on the planet. This is perhaps the reason why the rover landed at the Jezero crater, which is believed to be an ancient lakebed and river delta.

According to NASA’s press statement, the crater had its own river delta and was filled with water about 3.5 billion years ago, and therefore could be vital for signs of ancient microbial life.

However, when Perseverance landed on the planet, it was revealed that NASA had hidden a secret message on the rover’s parachute.

In a press briefing held on Monday (February 22), Allen Chen, the entry, descent, and landing lead for the Perseverance mission, said that the people watching the video of the rover’s landing on the red planet would have noticed a distinct red and white pattern on the interior of the parachute.

Chen said that it was indeed a hidden message, before challenging the public to decode it. He said, “In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts in our engineering can inspire others,

“Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose, so we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work.”

However, it was not long before the public accepted the challenge, and internet sleuths soon claiming that they have “cracked a code” hidden in images of the Mars rover.

Like always, the inquisitive nature of the internet users did not disappoint as they revealed that the hidden message in the colored patterns of the rover’s parachute translated to the phrase, “Dare mighty things”.

It is the motto used by the Perseverance team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which serves as mission control for the Perseverance rover mission.

Segments of the shape and location of the red-and-white color patterns circling around the center of the parachute represented different numbers. These numbers could be translated through binary code, which was decoded by the internet users in just six hours.

NASA Perseverance chief engineer Adam Steltzner later tweeted,

“It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours! Oh internet is there anything you can’t do?”

Perseverance, as the new rover is called, has been named by a middle-school child who won NASA’s ‘Name the Rover’ essay contest. It is the fifth rover that NASA has sent to Mars. Each of these rovers has carried cameras or other instruments to study the Martian surface.

As opposed to stationary landers, like InSight or Phoenix, rovers can drive into craters, up slopes, and along sand dunes, allowing scientists and engineers to explore the planet.

All of NASA’s Mars rovers have been built at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. About $2.4 billion has been invested to build and launch the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission. The estimated cost to land and operate the rover during its prime mission is approximately $300 million.

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