Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morse Messages on Mars

Artist's conception of Rover "Curiosity" on Mars.
Courtesy NASA/JPL

The next Mars rover now being built - named Curiosity - will apparently be taking Morse code with it to the red planet when it is launched this fall. The ARRL Letter reports that The Planetary Society's Science and Technology Coordinator, Emily Lakdawalla, reported on her blog that the pattern created by the rover's six wheels "are in a pattern of short squares and longer rectangles -- almost like dots and dashes. Morse code." The patterns reportedly spell out "JPL." The official function of these patterns is as "visual odometry markers," which help observers visually determine how far the rover has traveled. Curiosity is scheduled for launch between November 25 and December 18 of this year, and for arrival on Mars sometime next August.