Check out the 5 “Easter eggs” that NASA hid aboard the Orion spacecraft

NASA’s Orion moonship splashed down in the Pacific this weekend after a historical journey through space. And while the 25-day trip around the moon was memorable in its own right, 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 had five hidden “Easter eggs” on board as a nod to the agency’s history of lunar exploration. These secret items are part of a NASA tradition, with past flights including their own keepsakes, such as the Golden record on Voyager 1 and 2.

These are the items that belonged to Orion Flight of 1.4 million miles around the moon and back.

A hidden animal

To the right of Orion’s pilot seat – unoccupied during this uncrewed test flight – was the statue of a cardinal nestled above the window. The image carried a bit of a double, though entwined, meaning during the journey.

Cardinal image pays tribute to former Orion Program manager, Johnson Space Center director and devout St. Louis Cardinals fan Mark Geyer, who died in 2021. / Credit: NASA

Cardinal image pays tribute to former Orion Program manager, Johnson Space Center director and devout St. Louis Cardinals fan Mark Geyer, who died in 2021. / Credit: NASA

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

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

Secret Morse code

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

Morse code symbol for

Morse code symbol for

NASA says Lundquist helped design, develop and test the Orion spacecraft. Prior to that position, he was Orion’s crew office and service module manager.

Tribute to international partnership

Orion’s historic mission to the moon was not carried out alone and required incredible global collaboration. To emphasize how important that collaboration was, NASA made sure that the countries that made the flight possible had a front row seat during the trip.

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

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

Just in front of the pilot’s seat, NASA posted the country codes for each country that helped develop and build the spacecraft’s European Service Module. Included in the shoutout 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 his affiliation with NASA is more than a happy coincidence — it’s become something of an anthem to past missions.

In an unobtrusive tribute to the song, NASA placed the musical notes to 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 tune 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 back on Earth also happened to be 50 years after the last Apollo 17 moon landing.

A historic return to the moon

The final touches to the “Easter egg” bundle paid homage to NASA’s own history of exploration.

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

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

Atop the pilot’s seat, right next to the agency’s logo, is a sequence of black and white bars representing the binary code for the number 18. The code was posted in honor of the agency’s previous trips to the moon with the Apollo program – and a tribute to this new phase that takes place generations later Apollo 17 made his journey.

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