Internet Sleuths Decode Secret Message In Mars Rover Parachute

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Jane Smith

The Mars rover Perseverance mission is filled with promise, and it appears to have a few surprises in store for us as well. One clever message was hidden on the pattern of the parachute, and it did not take long for internet sleuths to decode it.

The orange and white design on the 70-foot parachute might have looked like an odd arrangement of stripes to most viewers, but thanks to a crossword hobbyist on the spacecraft team, the striped pattern had a specific meaning, PBS reported.

The Message Was In Binary Code

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Systems engineer Ian Clark was behind the communication, and he used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” on the chute. In addition, the GPS coordinates for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s headquarters were also hidden within the shapes.

Engineers working on the project wanted an unusual pattern for the parachute primarily to help them identify certain locations from different camera angles. The idea of adding a secret communication to the project was “super fun,” Clark told PBS, adding that only about six people knew about it when the images of the landing were transmitted to Earth.

Viewers Were Challenged To Break The Code

In a press conference on Monday, engineer Allen Chen hinted that astute viewers might try to take a crack at breaking the code.

“Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose,” he said, according to the New York Times.

“So we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work.”

It did not long for a father and son team to decode it. Computer science Maxence Abela, 23, and his father, Jerome, a software engineer for Google set to solve the puzzle, and it only took them a few hours to crack it.

It Took Just Under Three Hours To Crack The Code 

Maxence, who lives in Paris, teleconferenced with his father who was in London to work on decoding the message. They were not hopeful, but the two like those kinds of challenges, so they thought they would at least give it a try.

After downloading the video, they studied images of the fully inflated chute and began the task of putting the pieces together. After exploring several ideas and coming up with nothing, they finally cracked the code in just under three hours after Chen’s clue.


The Message Comes From A Franklin D. Roosevelt Speech

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“Dare mighty things” is part of an ideology used at California-based JPL. It comes from a motivational speech delivered by then New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt on April 10, in 1899, the Times reported.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”