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Code Words on Mars Chute
News Bytes 03/1/2021 26 Comments

NASA released video last week of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars. The craft set down with the help of a huge parachute. It turns out, the clever spacecraft team had embedded a secret, coded message in the panels and colors of the chute.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code (an assortment of ones and zeroes) to encrypt the message in the orange and white stripes of the 70-foot-wied parachute. The message comprised a verbal motto and the GPS coordinates of the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark is a crossword hobbyist—as many codebreakers tend to be. He came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted the parachute to have an unusual, broken pattern in its fabric. That would let them see how the chute was oriented during descent. Clark thought it would be “super fun” to turn that pattern into a secret message.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before the landing. After the parachute images came back and could be made public, that handful of people put out a teaser about the code in a televised news conference. Space fans descended on the challenge—studying the images and putting their best cipher-cracking brain cells to work. Within just a few hours, they’d solved the puzzle.

“Dare Mighty Things” the parachute exhorted.

The line is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt. It’s a mantra (a motto or repeated phrase for solidarity and encouragement) at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Signs with the slogan adorn many of the center’s walls.

Deputy project manager Matt Wallace promises more so-called hidden “Easter eggs” for science fans to discover. They should be visible once Perseverance’s seven-foot arm is deployed. It will allow for photographing under the vehicle.

“Definitely, definitely should keep a good lookout,” Wallace urges.

(This NASA illustration layers a diagram over the parachute image. The diagram helps identify the code elements hidden in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot nylon device. NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

A joyful heart is good medicine. — Proverbs 27:22

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Most recent comments

1st comment

Ooooh! This is cool! I had no clue they had a code on the parachute! It’s a great idea!

2nd Comment

I never knew that. Amazing!!!!

3rd comment

I didn't know that either. That is a cool idea!

4th comment


5th comment

I wonder what the other things to find are. This is so cool!

6th comment!!!!!!!

cool! i have been learning a lot about nasa in my science lately

@ Riley D.

You haven't been on Voice of a Storyteller recently. (no offense plz, I'm just REALLY excited 4 more of your story :D)

@ Everyone

3 cheers for new articles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@ Belwyn

Cheers, mates!!!!!

@ Isabel F

:) Hip-hip-hurrah!!!

did you all notice that they

did you all notice that they could send a thingie to mars but can't (in some parts) get electricity down in tx?


Never knew that. Cool beans!

@ David P

Interesting. Maybe less people are using the internet on Mars. (That was a joke, so please don't be offended.)


YEah I know I am sorry! It has been really busy for us lately with 4-H stuff and birthdays and such, and it can take a while to answer comments on that, so that is why I haven't had time! I am planning to get on soon though! Sorry!

@belwyn r

what is voice of a storyteller

@ Riley D.

Oh, ok. I totally get it! : )

@ Adam S.

Voice of a Storyteller is an article that all of us kid authors get on and write about the stories/books we're writing. Sometimes, people put a chapter or two on there and everyone gives advice. It has over 700 comments and has A LOT of awesome writing tips. (@ Everyone, is that pretty arcuate?)

@ Above


Huh. I'd wondered about the

Huh. I'd wondered about the parachute's pattern. Now I'll read the rest of the article lol.


In the first sentence of the second paragraph, y'all wrote "70-foot-wied". Just so you know.

@ Belwyn

Hey, how do you get on to the voice of a storyteller?

@ Above

By clicking this link: :))

@ Belwyn

Yes, I suppose it is accurate. (I have been giving an awful lot of advice and tips haven't I? XD XP :)

@ N&M A

Thank you!

@ Bethy

Yes, thank you! :)

@ Belwyn

You're welcome! It's been fun!

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