In just some brief days, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land on Mars Thursday (Feb. 18), and it is bringing 5 “hidden gems” together with it.
For a long time, NASA has been following a convention referred to as “festooning,” including enjoyable extras to spacecraft and rovers heading to the cosmos. Pioneer 10 and 11, two spacecraft launched into area within the Seventies, included a plaque that depicted Earth’s location within the galaxy in addition to footage of a unadorned man and a unadorned lady. The picture was the brainchild of Carl Sagan, who wished any extraterrestrial life who would possibly discover the spacecraft to know who we’re and the way to contact us.
One of the objects included on Perseverance pays homage to this historical past. A plate mounted to the rover makes use of the identical sort of chic line artwork used on the Pioneer plaque, this time depicting Earth, the solar, and Mars, all joined by traces of Morse code studying “Explore as one.’ And that’s just one of the many “hidden gems” on NASA’s Perseverance rover.
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10.9 million names
The same plate containing nods to NASA’s Voyager and Pioneer plaques contains another special message: three microchips carrying 10,932,295 names from NASA’s “Send Your Name To Mars” campaign. This is a tradition for NASA’s Mars rovers; the agency’s most recent Mars rover Curiosity carried a microchip with 1.2 million names.
Also contained in the microchips are 155 essays from students who made it to the finals of the space agency’s rover-naming contest. That contest was won by Alex Mather, a seventh grader from Virginia.
A COVID-19 tribute
Also included on the rover is a tribute to the healthcare workers who’ve been fighting the coronavirus pandemic here on Earth. The rover launched in July 2020, just a few months after the virus hit the U.S.
The rover team wanted to recognize the impact of the year in which the rover launched, and especially those people on the frontlines of the pandemic. So, the team affixed an aluminium plate on the rover’s left side showing the caduceus — the image of a serpent wound around a staff that is used as a symbol of medicine in the U.S. — holding up the Earth.
Mastcam-Z: “Are we alone?”
Although plates like those carrying the names and honoring healthcare workers are purely decorative, some of the hidden objects on Perseverance are both decorative and functional. One of these is Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras on the rover to capture color panoramas of the Red Planet.
Mastcam-Z is fully functional as a camera, but it also holds a very important message, NASA said in a statement: “Are we alone? We got here right here to search for indicators of life, and to gather samples of Mars for examine on Earth. To those that comply with, we want a secure journey and the enjoyment of discovery.”
The words “pleasure of discovery” are also written around the message in a variety of languages, and Mastcam-Z follows in the footsteps of the Pioneer program with images of Earth’s early life forms like cyanobacteria, a fern and a dinosaur. There are also line drawings of a man and woman, similar to those on the Pioneer plaques.
Fans of geocaching — a treasure-hunting game in which people use GPS to hide and find treasures — will enjoy knowing that the rover team hid a special coin made of helmet-visor material on one of the instruments. The NASA statement called it a geocache “extra distant than every other.”
The coin is part of the calibration target for the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument and is etched with the address of its famous narrative namesake (221b Baker Street in London).
SHERLOC is also adorned with a slice of Martian meteorite and four other samples of spacesuit materials. While it’s cool to have some of NASA’s spaceflight history on Mars, the space agency also included the spacesuit material to see how it holds up on the Martian surface.
Finally, the scientists who constructed Perseverance’s SuperCam added their very own slice of Martian meteorite. SuperCam is a laser placed on the rover to vaporize bits of the Martian floor so as to decide the composition. The particular little bit of meteorite scientists added to the instrument made a round-trip journey to the International Space Station earlier than it hitched a experience on Perseverance to Mars.
All of those enjoyable little knick-knacks and memorabilia will contact down on Mars on Feb. 18.
Follow Kasandra Brabaw on Twitter @KassieBrabaw. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.