The parachute that the Perseverance rover used to land on Mars had a secret message inscribed on it. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Systems Engineer Ian Clark designed a binary code to spell out “dare mighty things”, which is a phrase borrowed from former United States President Theodore Roosevelt.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory called the phrase its motto. It is part of Roosevelt’s “Strenuous Life” speech. “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat,” Roosevelt had said in the speech.
While “dare mighty things” was inscribed on the parachute’s inner portion, the outer part had the GPS coordinates for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The Mars rover was built in the lab and the project is also being managed from there.
Clark, a crossword hobbyist, told AP that he came up with the idea two years ago. He added that engineers wanted an unusual message on the parachute’s nylon fabric to ascertain how it was oriented during descent. “Turning it into a secret message was super fun,” he told the news agency.
Clark added that only six people knew about the secret message before the rover’s landing. After pictures of the parachute came back, NASA released a teaser during a televised press briefing on Monday. “It took just a few hours for space fans to figure it out,” Clark told AP. “I’ll have to be a little bit more creative.”
After sailing through space for seven months, NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance – the most advanced astrobiology lab ever sent to another planet – landed safely on the Red Planet last Thursday to begin a search for traces of ancient microbial life.
The six-wheeled vehicle came to rest about 2 km from towering cliffs at the foot of a remnant fan-shaped river delta of the crater, considered a prime spot for geo-biological study on Mars.
On Friday, NASA released new photographs of Perseverance’s landing on the Red Planet, including an image of the six-wheel vehicle itself. The rover’s “selfie” was taken just before touchdown, from a camera installed in its jetpack.