Amateur puzzle fans rejoiced this week when NASA revealed that it had hidden a secret color-coded message on a parachute for a Persuasive rover that landed on Mars last week.
The messages, spelled by systems engineer Ian Clark in binary code with alternate white and orange stripes at a height of 70-feet, spelled out NASA’s motto “Der Mighty Things”, which comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s quote.
Clark, the main developer of the parachute, had an interesting problem encoding the message – he couldn’t use any of the colors already tested for the Martian atmosphere. Different color shades can undermine the integrity within its harsh environment.
“There are other types of guessing questions,” Clark said, according to The New York Times. “Like being whiter than orange, or, Latu, does that mean the parachute was going to heat up differently and maybe change its behavior?”
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Clark said that when he asked Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace if he could put a message on the parachute, his only guidance was to “make sure it was right and not misinterpreted.”
Only six people know about the message encoded before landing last Thursday, Clark, a crossword puzzle enthusiast, who called the message creation “super fun.”
He said it only took a few hours for the puzzle solvers to pull out the binary coded missiles after they were annoyed during Monday’s news conference.
He said, “Now and then I have to be creative.”
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Clarke also included GPS coordinates of the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in the message – “34 ° 11’58” N 118 ° 10’31. “
During the news conference, Alan Chen, the engineer in charge of the landing system, told space fans, “We leave our messages to others for that purpose. So we invite you all to give it a shot and do your job.”
In this case black and white – or orange and white – alternately often indicate that something is in the binary code, giving enthusiasts the first clue.
Internet detectives eventually realized the group of 10 fits and a series of zeros and gave an inspiring message on the parachute’s three inner rings, according to the Times.
Within hours, IT student Maxxons Abella posted her response on Twitter. He and his father were among others who were able to solve the mystery.
“Looks like the internet has cracked the code like 6 hours!” Adam Steltzner, the mission’s chief engineer, tweeted a graph of the response.
According to the Times, a message was also written on a plaque that will be used to calibrate the camera on the rover.
He says, “Are we alone? We came here to find signs of life and to collect samples of Mars for study on Earth. Those who follow want to enjoy safe travel and discovery.”
The plaque also includes pictures of NASA’s five Mars rovers in increasing size over the years.
And Valce Lace has promised more Easter eggs associated with the rover.
He said that once the Perseverance’s seven-legged arm is deployed in a few days and starts photographing the bottom of the vehicle, they should be visible when the rover is driving in a few weeks.
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“Definitely, definitely have a certain look,” he pleaded.
The Associated Press contributes to this report.