Encoded message in Mars parachute

NASA caused a stir with a nice PR stunt: the parachute of the “Perseverance” probe, which reached Mars a few days ago, contained a steganographic message.

Deutsche Version

Last year, Rolls-Royce made headlines when a new model appropriately named “Kryptos” was equipped with hidden and encrypted messages. Even though this action did not result in me buying a Rolls Royce now, I would rate it as a PR success.


PR steganography

As readers of this blog know, there are numerous other examples of messages hidden in all sorts of objects to generate publicity. For example, I find the still unsolved steganographic code in the credits of the 2010 movie “Fair Game” with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn particularly exciting.

Quelle/Source: Fair Game, Rossignol

Another example is a commemorative plaque with a secret code in London that Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated two years ago. The same kind of British humor apparently prompted the British Post Office to smuggle some hidden messages into a series of stamps.

Quelle/Source: Royal Mail

The opening credits of the TV movie “In the Name of My Son” show that this can also be done in Germany. This also contains a code.

The code on Mars

Since hidden messages are always good for a headline, NASA did not want to follow suit. As is well known, the US space organization was able to record the successful landing of the Perseverance space probe on Mars a few days ago.

At NASA, a whole army of PR strategists has long been busy staging such space missions with the greatest possible publicity impact. Since one depends on tax money, it is almost vitally important for the organization that in the population as large a space travel enthusiasm as possible develops. The landing of the Perseverance on Mars was therefore broadcast by every trick in the livestream and in the social media.

Some livestream viewers noticed that the parachute that slowed the probe down before it landed on the planet had a strange pattern.

Quelle/Source: NASA

It turned out that this pattern encoded a message (thanks to Dave Oranchak, Ralf Bülow and Tobias Schrödel for the hint). If you want, you can also watch the parachute on video (from 0:12):

NASA has not previously announced that there is this code in the parachute. However, Spiegel quotes NASA spokesman Allen Chen in the article linked above with the following allusion: “Sometimes we leave messages for others in our work. So we invite you all to try your hand at it and show what you found.” Six hours after the landing, the solution to the code first appeared on the Internet.


How it works

You can read how the parachute code works on Reddit, for example. The following graphic shows it:

Quelle/Source: Reddit

As you can see, there are a total of 24 seven-part segments on the parachute. If a part is colored white, then it stands for a zero; if it is red, then it stands for a one. This results in a total of 24 seven-digit binary numbers. Here at applies:

  • 0000001=1: A
  • 0000010=2: B
  • 0000011=3: C
  • 0000100=4: D

Some of the binary numbers on the outer ring are not read as letters, but as numbers, for example 0001011=11. Overall, the inner rings produce the following message:


On the outer ring reads:

34 11 58 N 118 10 31 W

These are the geo-coordinates of the “Jet Propulsion Laboratory” at the California Institute of Technology, from where NASA’s space missions are controlled.

Admittedly, I have read more original steganographically coded messages, but still.

According to NASA spokesman Allen Chen, there may be other secret messages hidden aboard Perseverance. Most of them will never be known, Chen said cryptically, even for himself.


Another code on an alien planet

By the way, the idea of leaving a coded message when entering an alien planet is not new. Already in 2008 aliens of unknown origin did this in England. In a crop circle one found there the message “3.141592654…”. This proves that also extraterrestrials know the number Pi and the decimal system.

Unfortunately, I cannot show a picture of this circle for copyright reasons. Here there is one (picture 3).

The same article shows on the pictures 1 and 2 another crop circle message of extraterrestrial origin. It was found in 2011 also in England. The message is: “(e ^ ( i * Pi ) + 1 = 0)”. It is encoded in ASCII code. It is Euler’s identity, a well-known equation from mathematics:

Since the extraterrestrials have coded this equation into a crop circle we know: The inhabitants of an alien planet who have visited Earth know not only Euler’s identity, but also the ASCII code developed in the sixties by the American Standards Association.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: How steganography solved a murder case

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13501820
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/763282653806483/

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.