The first all-civilian spaceflight, called Inspiration-4, is due to launch this week for a three-day trip in Earth orbit onboard SpaceX’s Resilience vehicle. On Monday, SpaceX and the mission crew tossed space enthusiasts a delightful hidden message that resonates with the pioneering nature of the voyage.
A crew portrait that SpaceX tweeted out on Monday looks unassuming at first glance, but internet sleuths at the subreddit r/SpaceXLounge quickly recognized an Easter egg written in Morse code in the background, reports Futurism. The cryptic note reads “Ad astra,” a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars,” which is often invoked as an inspirational incantation for space exploration.
Hours later, Inspiration-4 crew member Sian Proctor, a geology professor and science communicator, directly channeled the phrase in her own tweet of the photo.
The cute riddle is just the latest example of mission planners having fun with ardent fans of space exploration.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) also sent the internet ablaze last year by embedding a secret message in the parachute that deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover. The mission team used binary code to design a red-and-white pattern that read “Dare Mighty Things,” JPL’s unofficial motto, as well as the center’s coordinates in Pasadena, California.
Inspiration-4 is currently on track to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, anywhere within a 24-hour period that begins at 8pm Eastern Time on Wednesday this week.