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By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute.

He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission's headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun," he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday.

It took just a few hours for space fans to figure it out, Clark said. Next time, he noted, “I’ll have to be a little bit more creative.”

“Dare Mighty Things” — a line from President Theodore Roosevelt — is a mantra at JPL and adorns many of the center's walls. The trick was “trying to come up with a way of encoding it but not making it too obvious," Clark said.

As for the GPS coordinates, the spot is 10 feet (3 meters) from the entrance to JPL's visitor center.

Another added touch not widely known until touchdown: Perseverance bears a plaque depicting all five of NASA's Mars rovers in increasing size over the years — similar to the family car decals seen on Earth.

Clark suspects there are even more so-called hidden Easter eggs, but adds: “I'm not even privy to them."


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Photos appear to show a giant ship hovering over the water off the English coast

A ship appears to hover over the sea off the coast of Cornwall, England, in a photo captured by David Morris that shows the optical illusion known as "superior mirage," caused by warm air sitting on top of colder air over bending light as it reaches a viewer's eyes. David Morris/APEX

A man says he was "stunned" to look out to sea from a village in Cornwall, in southwest England, and see a giant ship seemingly suspended in mid-air over the water. It wasn't his eyes deceiving him, but a rare weather phenomenon that causes the optical illusion.

BBC News meteorologist David Braine explained that what David Morris had captured with his camera lens wasn't levitation, but a "superior mirage," caused by conditions more typical in the frigid arctic than off the English coast.

hovering ship David Morris/APEX

"Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it," Braine said. "Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears."

Previous sightings of "ghost ships" around the world may well have involved the illusion, but the stark images captured by Morris seem to be some of the clearest examples of a superior mirage to date.

A Ghost Ship Appears on Lake Superior (Original) | Jason Asselin by Jason Asselin on YouTube

Braine said that while in this instance the phenomenon made the ship appear to float over the water, "sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible," casting objects that would otherwise be invisible into someone's sight almost like a giant mirror.

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