In NASA's Mars Parachute, a Coded Message

Internet sleuths uncover 'dare mighty things'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2021 12:44 PM CST
NASA Hid a Message in Its Mars Parachute
An image from NASA's video of the parachute opening for the Mars landing.   (NASA)

NASA slipped a hidden message into last week's Mars landing—the phrase "dare mighty things" encoded in a red-and-white parachute. The Telegraph reports that Internet sleuths deciphered the message, and NASA's chief engineer for the Perseverance project confirmed they got right. "It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours!" tweeted Adam Steltzner. "Oh internet is there anything you can’t do?" His tweet includes an image of the decoded message in the parachute. Bonus: Decoded numbers and letters on the outer ring of the parachute represent the geographical coordinates of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The Guardian explains that the parachute's red and white stripes are key to the message, as is a working knowledge of computer binary code.

In this case, the reds represent 1s and the whites represented 0s, and these were separated into groups of 10. "And from that, adding 64 gives you the computer ASCII code representing a letter," per the Guardian. "For example, seven white stripes, a red stripe and then two more white stripes represents 0000000100, the binary for four. Adding 64 to that gives 68, the ASCII code for the letter D." The phrase "dare mighty things," credited to Teddy Roosevelt, is a motto of the laboratory, notes the Telegraph. It shows up in official NASA tweets like this one. (The Perseverance rover already is sending back images, along with the first-ever clip of audio from Mars.)

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