Discover the 5 “Easter eggs” hidden by NASA aboard the Orion spacecraft

NASA’s Orion lunar spacecraft splashed in the Pacific Ocean this weekend after a historic trip through space. And while the 25-day trip around the moon was momentous in itself, some secrets hidden beneath the spacecraft’s surface help convey the message of what the mission is all about.

On Saturday, NASA revealed that Orion has five “Easter eggs” hidden on board as a nod to the agency’s history of lunar exploration. These secret objects are part of a NASA tradition, with past flights including their own memories, such as the gold record on Voyager 1 and 2.

Here are the articles that accompanied Orion on his 1.4 million mile flight around the moon and back.

A hidden animal

To the right of Orion’s pilot’s seat – unoccupied during this uncrewed test flight – the image of a cardinal sat nestled above the window. The image carried a bit of a double, albeit entwined, signifying on the ride.

The image of a cardinal is a tribute to former Orion program manager, Johnson Space Center director and avid St. Louis Cardinals fan Mark Geyer, who died in 2021. / Credit: NASA

The bird, often seen as a symbolic tribute to deceased loved ones, is also the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals, a baseball team adored by former Orion program manager and Johnson Space Center director Mark Geyer.

Geyer died in December 2021, in Houston, at the age of 63 after battling pancreatic cancer, NASA said, adding he was the spacecraft’s first program manager and helped lead Orion in its first successful test in space in 2014.

secret morse code

In the middle of Orion’s cabin was a secret word with a deep connection. NASA included the Morse code symbol for “Charlie” in honor of former Orion Deputy Program Director Charlie Lundquist, who died in 2020.

Morse code symbol for

Morse code symbol for

NASA says Lundquist helped oversee the design, development and testing of the Orion spacecraft. Previously, he had served as director of Orion’s crew office and service module.

Tribute to international partnership

Orion’s historic mission to the Moon was not accomplished alone and required an incredible global partnership. To underscore how important this collaboration was, NASA made sure that the countries that helped make the flight possible got a front row seat to the trip.

The country codes represent each country that participated in the development and construction of the European spacecraft service module.  / Credit: NASA

The country codes represent each country that participated in the development and construction of the European spacecraft service module. / Credit: NASA

Just in front of the pilot’s seat, NASA has included the country codes for each nation that helped develop and build the spacecraft’s European service module. Included in the cry were Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands.

Fly Frank Sinatra to the moon

One of singer Frank Sinatra’s greatest songs was his 1964 hit “Fly Me to the Moon.” And its affiliation with NASA is more than a happy coincidence – it’s become something of an anthem for past missions.

In a stealthy tribute to the song, NASA placed the musical notes for the chorus – “C, B, A, G, F” – under one of the windows next to the pilot’s seat.

Letters

Letters

In 2008, Grammy Award-winning producer Quincy Jones, who produced and performed the song with Sinatra, gave astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong platinum copies of the song. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth and Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.

The day Orion landed on Earth also happened 50 years to the day after Apollo 17’s last moon landing.

A historic lunar return

The finishing touch to the “Easter egg” package was a tribute to NASA’s own history of exploration.

The binary code for the number 18 celebrates the return of a human spacecraft to the Moon after Apollo 17. / Credit: NASA

The binary code for the number 18 celebrates the return of a human spacecraft to the Moon after Apollo 17. / Credit: NASA

On top of the pilot’s seat, just next to the agency’s logo, is a succession of black and white bars representing the binary code for the number 18. The code was placed in honor of the past travels of the agency on the moon with the Apollo Program – and a tribute to this new phase happening generations later Apollo 17 makes his journey.

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