The letter, written by systems engineer Ian Clark in binary code by alternating white and orange bands on the 70-foot-high chute, illustrates the NASA «Dare Mighty Things» logo that comes from a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
Clark, the lead developer of the parachute, had an interesting problem coding the message — he couldn’t use any colors that hadn’t actually been tested in the Martian atmosphere. Different color pigments may impair its integrity in their harsh environment.
«There are all kinds of second-guessing questions,» Clark said, according to the New York Times. «Like could it be more white than orange, or vice versa, implying that the umbrella will heat differently and maybe that will change its behavior?»
When deputy project director Matt Wallace asked if he could put a message in the parachute, Clark said his only directive was to «make sure it is appropriate and cannot be misinterpreted.»
Clark, a crossword puzzle enthusiast who described creating the encrypted message «super fun,» said only six people were aware of the encrypted message before last Thursday’s landing.
He said it took only a few hours for the puzzle solvers to figure out the two-coded message after it was provoked during Monday’s press conference.
Next time he said «I’ll be a little more creative».
Clark has also included the GPS coordinates of the mission headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in the message — «34 ° 11’58» N 118 ° 10’31.
During the press conference, engineer Allen Chen, who was in charge of the landing system, told space lovers, «Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for this purpose. So we invite you all to give it a picture and show the job.»
Alternating black and white — or orange and white in this case — is often a hint that there is something in the binary code, giving enthusiasts their first clue.
Ultimately, internet investigators realized that the ones and zeros series fit into groups of 10 and spelled out the inspiring message on the three inner rings of the parachute, according to The Times.
Within hours, IT student Maxence Abela posted his answer on Twitter.
«It looks like the internet hacked the code in about 6 hours!» Adam Stelzner, chief engineer of the mission, tweeted, showing a graph of the answer.
A message was also written on a board that will be used to calibrate the camera on the rover, he said times.
«Are we alone? We came here to search for signs of life, to collect samples from Mars to study on Earth. We wish those who follow this a safe journey and the joy of exploration,» she says.
The painting also includes images of all five of NASA’s Mars rovers in increasing size over the years.
Wallace has promised more Easter eggs associated with the rover.
They should be visible, he said, once the seven-foot Perseverance arm is deployed in a few days and begins filming under the vehicle, and again when the rover is driven in two weeks.
He urged, «Certainly, you must definitely be well informed.»
The Associated Press contributed to this report.