People love Easter eggs. That’s why game developers almost always leave little messages and surprises for players to find. But Easter eggs are not only for video games. They can also be found in movies, television shows, and NASA space missions.
Last Friday, NASA successfully landed the Perseverance rover on Martian soil. The mission went off without a hitch, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) began broadcasting the first images almost immediately. However, some pictures and videos taken during the landing were not available until this week.
One video of the landing revealed Monday showed a perfectly framed shot of the Perseverance parachute unfurling. The chute’s red and white coloring seemed random, but JPL hinted that the team might have left people secret messages to find.
“In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts in our engineering can inspire others,” said Allen Chen, entry, descent, and landing lead during a Monday press conference. “Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose, so we invite you all to give it shot and show your work.”
It took the internet about six hours to figure out that the coloring on the parachute actually spells out the Perseverance mission’s motto: “Dare mighty things” in binary. Chief Engineer Adam Steltzner confirmed the message later via Twitter. The tweet also pointed out that the chute’s outer ring spelled out the landing coordinates: 34°11’58” N 118°10’31” W.
Another Easter egg discovered among the thousands of images released so far is a “family onboard” sticker commonly seen on Earth-bound minivans and SUV. However, Perseverance’s family includes itself, past Mars rovers, and the Ingenuity helicopter, which should soon be providing some excellent aerial views of the red planet.
I wonder what other secrets observers might find. Chen made it clear that there are many, saying, “People can’t resist putting a little personal touch in their work, but the vast majority of these will never be known — even by me.”