The Secret Message Behind The Mars Rover Landing Explained

On February 18, 2021, the Mars Perseverance Rover made its historic landing on the surface of the red planet. (If you haven't watched the awe-inspiring video of the landing yet, go to the NASA website and watch it asap.) After being slowed by a parachute, the descent module's thrusters took over, and the device known as the Sky Crane lowered Perseverance down the final few meters to the surface via cables.

Aside from being an absolutely spectacular feat of human engineering, the process also contained a puzzle that internet sleuths immediately set to tackling. According to, the parachute used in the descent bore a design that was actually a secret message in binary code that spelled out the phrase, "Dare mighty things." Also in the coded message were the GPS coordinates of Perseverance's mission control: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The phrase is a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, and JPL scientists consider it their motto.

"In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts in our engineering can inspire others," said Allen Chen, the JPL scientist in charge of Perseverance's entry, landing, and descent, who invited people to find and decode the message during a press conference. Like any good scientist, he made sure to remind people to show their work. The internet had it solved in six hours.

The secret parachute message isn't the only Easter egg hidden on Perseverance

Secret messages encoded in Perseverance's parachute are actually just the beginning of what sound like several puzzles and surprises to come. As the Associated Press reported, earthlings learned of another aesthetic touch on the rover after it landed, one that gives it the feel of things back home. Perseverance is roving around Mars with a plaque similar to the decals we put on cars here on Earth, one that features all five of the rovers NASA has sent to Mars since Sojourner first left tracks in the red sand in 1997.

And there's more to come, according to deputy project manager Matt Wallace. He said the project is full other hidden messages known as "Easter eggs." The next chance to spot one will be when Perseverance deploys its 7-foot-long arm and will take photographs of the underside of the rover in the coming days, and also when it finally starts to drive around the surface of Mars after a few weeks. So keep your eyes peeled as Perseverance continues its historic exploration of the red planet. "Definitely, definitely should keep a good lookout," said Wallace.