A crafty message hidden in plain sight - look closely or you might just overlook it. Systems engineer Ian Clark left a big surprise for those keeping an eye on the NASA's Perseverance rover's parachute in the form of a binary code. The 21-metre parachute's orange and white strip spelled out "Dare Mighty Things" along with the GPS coordinates to the headquarters of the entire mission based at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
This little bit of ingenuity was not a random thought; there is also some serious mission goals at play. The idea was to create an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to give the engineers a clear idea on the parachute orientation, while it descended. Ian Clark decided that mixing this need with a message would be a "super fun" idea and as a crossword hobbyist, he was up to the task.
'Dare Mighty Things'
The fact that there was a message there in the parachute at all, was known by only six people before the landing. When the images came back, a teaser was put through the televised news conference, to see if fans and puzzle solvers would pick it up. It was a pleasant surprise, when within a few hours, people were abuzz sharing that they have discovered the message, prompting Clark to note, "I'll have to be a little bit more creative."
Clark quipped, "Dare Mighty Things" — a line from President Theodore Roosevelt — is a mantra at JPL and adorns many of the centre's walls. The trick was "trying to come up with a way of encoding it but not making it too obvious."
However, this is not the first time that NASA tried something like it. Previously, it had done the same with the Curiosity rover as well, although in a different form. The rover, which landed on the rocky Red Planet in 2012, had small holes dotted in its hollow aluminum wheels in order to let the pebbles of the planet caught inside to escape. But there was something special with the holes, as they read "JPL" in Morse code. So, when Curiosity roved the surface, "JPL" was stamped in Morse code on all over the Martian soil (although it was erased by the Martian wind).
And this is not the end of the Easter eggs in this mission. Look closely - that's Deputy Project manager Matt Wallace's advise to all the curious eyes out there hunting for more interesting nit bits. According to him, once the Perseverance's 2-metre arm is up and running and it starts taking pictures of what's under the vehicle, there are going to be a few more Easter eggs. Then once the rover starts driving, the audience will get a few more clues to crack.
Now, the question is – are you looking closely?