Like any good piece of high-tech hardware, NASA’s Perseverance rover features an Easter egg hidden in plain sight. Since landing on Mars on February 18th, NASA has been sharing thousands of photos captured by the rover. And if you look close enough, as Space did, you’ll catch a decal bolted to the top of its body. That decal depicts Perseverance and every single other NASA rover to successfully make it to the surface of Mars.
I’m part of a proud lineage of robotic explorers, carrying the torch forward on Mars. This plaque I carry pays tribute to those who’ve gone before me, and to new possibilities ahead. #CountdownToMars https://t.co/P1VdyrIW2O pic.twitter.com/RL2hSWS0oL— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 26, 2021
From left to right, you can see Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance lined up in the order they landed on the Red Planet: 1997, 2004, 2012 and 2021. On the far right of the decal is NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter drone, which caught a ride on Perseverance and will attempt to fly the skies of Mars later this year.
After people caught sight of the family portrait, Dr Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection engineer at NASA’s JPL lab, shared a photo of the decal taken before it left Earth. “For those wondering if it was biologically clean, yes… yes it was,” she said.
While it’s been stealing the hearts of nerds everywhere, Perseverance’s real job is to find signs of ancient microbial life. Sometime in the next few weeks, NASA plans to take the rover on a short test drive before exploring further into the Jezero Crater. Perseverance will start collecting samples once it finds a promising place to drill.