We interrupt your regularly scheduled dose of Earth-based car news to bring you an interplanetary update. We're not talking about Elon Musk's space-exploring Tesla Roadster, which is presently much closer to Earth than Mars. NASA's Perseverance Rover made a spectacular landing on the Red Planet last week, and as pictures come rolling in by the thousands, we're discovering pseudo-secret fun features on this car-sized Martain explorer.
NASA said there were all kinds of Easter eggs hidden on Perseverance, but perhaps the coolest is a small family portrait of Mars rovers currently on the planet's surface. Zooming in on some of NASA's images showing the top of the rover, we see a small black plate with blocky renditions of five rovers.
Starting on the left, the smallest rover is Sojourner which landed on the Martian surface back in 1997 as part of the Pathfinder mission. The next two rovers look identical because they are the twins Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars early in 2004. Spirit arrived three weeks ahead of Opportunity, but both rovers morphed into legends by exceeding their mission parameters in a biblical fashion. Originally designed for a short-distance 90-day exploration, the rovers operated for years on Mars. Spirit went silent in 2010, but Opportunity endured through 2018, turning a three-month mission into a fourteen-year odyssey.
The last two rovers are NASA's super-sized explorers. Curiosity touched down at Gale crater in August of 2012, and it's also an overachiever. Originally slated for a two-year mission, Curiosity is still active today and its mission has been extended indefinitely. The final rover in the portrait is Perseverance, which is at the very beginning of its Mars mission.
This homage to NASA's roving explorers isn't the only neat quirk on Perseverance. As Space.com explains, three microchips are attached that carry the names of nearly 11 million people and essays from 155 students. The Mastcam-Z camera on the rover has all kinds of things etched into it, including images of humans, dinosaurs, plants, bacteria, and DNA. It's an homage to the primary mission of Perseverance, which is to seek out evidence of past microbial life on Mars.
Even the rover's descent parachute was "coded" with a hidden message – the alternating colors corresponded to binary code which translated to the phrase "dare mighty things," a motto used by the Perseverance team. The outer rings of the parachute also included GPS coordinates for the JPL lab. Who says scientists don't have fun?
Thus far, Perseverance has already sent back nearly 5,000 images in only six days on Mars. We can't wait to see what comes next when this autonomous car finally embarks on its epic Martian road trip.