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HomeMarsNasa hid a coded message on the parachute that delivered Perseverance to Mars

Nasa hid a coded message on the parachute that delivered Perseverance to Mars

Nasa hid a coded message on the parachute that delivered Perseverance to Mars
epa09030286 A handout photo grab from video footage made available by NASA shows the views include a camera looking down from the spacecraft's descent stage (a kind of rocket-powered jet pack that helps fly the rover to its landing site), a camera on the rover looking up at the descent stage, a camera on the top of the aeroshell (a capsule protecting the rover) looking up at that parachute, and a camera on the bottom of the rover looking down at the Martian surface, moments before the rover landed on Mars on 18 February 2021 (Issued on 22 February 2021). A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith. EPA/NASA/JPL-Caltech HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
The parachute that landed Perseverance on Mars seen on the Nasa footage of the landing (Credits: EPA)

The world watched last week as Nasa successfully delivered the Perseverance rover – known as Percy – to the surface of Mars.

The entire event was streamed live and we later saw video footage of the successful landing, including a shot of the red and white parachute that slowed the descent to the dusty red surface.

Internet sleuths have figured out there’s more to that parachute that meets the eye. Hidden in the pattern is a coded message that reads ‘Dare Mighty Things’.

The phrase is a somewhat motto of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and is taken from a speech by president Roosevelt in 1899.

The first person that appeared to find the message was IT student Abela Paf who decoded it with his dad. They figured out the chevrons around the ‘chute were arranged in concentric rings with the pattern representing letters as binary computer code.

The code works if the red sections are 1s and the white sections are 0s, then the rings can be broken down into blocks that represent numbers.

Then you add the number 64. So the first letter in the code is 0000000100, which gives you the number 4. Add 64 to get 68 – the ASCII code for the capital letter D.

The hidden message was tipped off during the landing livestream by Nasa systems engineer Allen Chen, who commented: ‘In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts and 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.’

There are clearly other hidden messages waiting on Perseverance to be unlocked and you can be sure that amateur mathematicians and physicists are probably poring over the details as we speak.

What is Perseverance going to do on Mars?

This NASA handout illustration obtained February 16, 2021 shows NASAs Perseverance's seven primary instruments that involve international partners, for acquiring information about Martian geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions and potential signs of life (biosignatures). - After a seven-month journey, NASA's Perseverance rover prepares to touch down on Mars on February 18, 2021 after first negotiating a risky landing procedure that will mark the start of its multi-year search for signs of ancient microbial life. The Mars 2020 mission, which set off late from Florida in late July, includes the largest ever vehicle to be dispatched to the Red Planet. (Photo by Handout / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
This image shows the seven seven primary instruments for acquiring information about Martian geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions and potential signs of life (biosignatures) (Nasa)

The Mars 2020 mission is the first mission with the explicit aim of finding evidence that life once existed there.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect and store up to 30 rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth where labs will analyze them.

Its top speed is 152 meters per hour (about 0.1 miles per hour) – sluggish by Earth standards but faster than any of its predecessors, as it traverses first the delta, then the ancient lake shore, and finally the edges of the crater.

The rover could return the samples as part of a planned joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency in the 2030s.

‘The scientists who will analyze these samples are in school today, they might not even be born yet,’ said Ken Farley, a Nasa scientist.

What would these long awaited signs of life look like? ‘We should not be looking for fossil teeth or fossil bones or fossil leaves,’ Farley said.

A portion of a panorama made up of individual images taken by the Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, aboard NASA?s Perseverance Mars rover shows the Martian landscape February 20, 2021. Images taken February 20, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS MANDATORY CREDIT. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
A portion of the panorama shot from Perseverance after it landed on Mars (Reuters)

Rather, it’s hunting for organic molecules and other signs of past microbial life, a discovery that would be “fabulous.”

The first months of the mission won’t however be devoted to this primary objective. Parallel experiments are also planned.

Nasa notably wants to fly, for the first time, a powered aircraft on another planet. The helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, must be able to ascend in an atmosphere just one percent the density of Earth’s.

Another goal is to help pave the way for future human missions, by developing a system that can convert oxygen from Mars’ primarily carbon dioxide atmosphere, much like a plant.

The space agency is deploying an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), using a process called electrolysis to produce about 10 grams of oxygen an hour.