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NASA Smuggled a Secret Message to Mars. Here's What It Says

A student cracked the code.
NASA Smuggled a Secret Message to Mars. Here's What It Says
IMAGE NASA
A student cracked the code.

Last week, when NASA’s Perseverance robot dropped through the atmosphere on Mars, it deployed a parachute designed with what seemed like abstract shapes of red and silver. But it actually contained a secret message.

Is the secret message for aliens?

According to Allen Chen, designer of the landing system, engineers purposely left a secret message in the parachute, but it’s not for aliens.

“Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose, so we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work,” the New York Times reported Chen saying.

A student cracked the secret message.

For many computer scientists, who usually think in binary codes, spotting the hidden message was easy. Maxence Abela, a 23-year-old computer science student in Paris, took one look at the parachute and realized it was a form of code.

The Secret Message

Photo by JEROME ABELA, MAXENCE ABELA.

Abela quickly telephoned her father, and they worked over Zoom to try to decode the hidden message.

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Each orange section on the Perseverance parachute represented a 1, while each white section on the parachute represented a 0.

When they finally put together a 10-bit binary code, it looked something like this:

01100100 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101101 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 01110011

The translation: DARE MIGHTY THINGS.

The phrase is a popular one often heard at NASA’s jet propulsion lab. It comes from an 1899 speech from Teddy Roosevelt: “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.”


*This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.phMinor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.

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