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NASA reveals more hidden Easter eggs aboard Mars Perseverance rover

NASA's "Perseverance" led by women, minority scientists
NASA's "Perseverance" team led by women and minority scientists 02:51

It's no secret that NASA scientists love to hide messages aboard its missions. Space fans thought they knew about all of the Easter eggs on the Mars Perseverance rover — but more surprises were revealed over the weekend, on Easter Sunday. 

The first is a unique, 17-digit ID on the mission nameplate, reading "AONREHMELN1730055" — the first official, off-planet Product Identification Number (PIN). 

NASA compared it to a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a car. PIN numbers are given to off-road vehicles, which now includes the six-wheeled, self-driving Mars rover. 

PINs and VINs contain unique sets of letters and numbers that can be "decoded" to reveal details about the vehicle. NASA said future spacecraft could also be assigned their own PINs. 

Decoding the message

  • AON: Characters assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers 
  • R: The primary vehicle type is Rover
  • E: The primary vehicle power is Electric
  • H: The secondary vehicle type is Helicopter
  • M: The location of operation is Mars
  • E: The objective is Science Exploration
  • L: Character assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers 
  • N: The year predicted to meet the primary vehicle objective is N=2022
  • 1: Mission operator plant is 1=NASA
  • 7: There are 7 instruments onboard 
  • 3: Earth is the originating planet (numbered from the sun) 
  • 0055: Of five attempts, Perseverance is the fifth vehicle that has successfully landed on Mars 
Running vertically along the right side of the mission nameplate is a string of 17 letters and numbers. These characters form a unique product identification number, encoding information about the vehicle's characteristics and manufacture. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The second new Easter egg is a drawing inside the front left wheel of the rover, which shows that "exploration is in our DNA."  

Two small illustrations highlight the rover's wheel tracks. One appears as normal, as if printed into Martian sand, "highlighting the technical achievements required to traverse the unknown."

The other is twisted into the shape of DNA, "a reminder that our space robots are of human origin." 

"Humanity's insatiable desire to explore the unknown is encoded in our DNA, and we have, from our earliest history, invented the tools to make that exploration possible," NASA said, explaining the engraving. "Our impulse for both exploration and innovation will help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars." 

This photo shows two small drawings inscribed inside the front left wheel of the Mars Perseverance rover, pictured here before it was installed on the rover. One figure represents the tracks that the rover leaves as it drives on Mars. The other resembles that same pattern, twisted into the shape of DNA.  NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has hidden plenty of other messages aboard Perseverance, as well as past rovers. 

The rover's parachute contained the phrase "Dare mighty things" hidden in its pattern, with parts of the pattern representing different numbers in binary code. The outer rings of the pattern also feature GPS coordinates for JPL's offices in Pasadena, California: 34°11'58" N 118°10'31" W.  

The names of 11 million people, as well as the essays of 155 finalists of NASA's "Name the Rover" contest, were stenciled onto three microchips and attached to a commemorative aluminum plate on the rover. The plaque also featured a hidden message in Morse code within a graphic of Earth and Mars joined together by the sun, reading "Explore As One." 

"These kinds of embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are otherwise solely dominated by science and technology, as well as lasting tributes to colleagues who have helped pave the way for humanity's exploration of space," said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who has helped festoon almost all of NASA's Mars rovers, including Perseverance.

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