When NASA’s Perseverance rover was named in 2019—by a seventh grader in a “name the rover” contest—no one could have predicted what the word “perseverance” would mean for us in 2021. We’ve been persevering and flexing and pivoting for more than a year. The rover’s landing on Mars in February felt like a rare moment of worldwide celebration and awe.
But the rover’s name isn’t the only inspiration we can take from NASA’s latest mission.
When the rover’s parachute was under development, engineers conducting a high-altitude test noticed that the checkerboard pattern made it difficult to evaluate how the 320 individual segments unfurled and inflated. The solution was to create a distinct pattern—and to have fun with it. Assigning binary code to the orange and white sections, the engineers composed the message “DARE MIGHTY THINGS”—a popular saying at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory drawn from a Teddy Roosevelt speech. Unsurprisingly, within hours of NASA’s release of Perseverance’s landing video, internet sleuths had solved the puzzle.
You’ll find more details on the development of the parachute fabric on page 10 of this issue of Review. The experts at Heathcoat Fabrics Ltd. describe the parachute as “world record-breaking” because the spacecraft it helped to slow down was carrying the heaviest payload yet to the Mars surface. Although I’m not sure if “world record-breaking” is the right phrase if the record was broken not on Earth but on Mars. As we explore beyond our big blue planet, we may need to be more daring with our descriptive vocabulary. Universe record-breaking?
I’m happy to remain on Earth, but after a year of no travel, I’d be thrilled to jump on a plane and fly into the Salt Lake City airport to take a selfie in front of “The Canyon” (see page 24) and then head to southern Utah to explore the slot canyons that inspired this massive and complex piece of fabric art.
Also in this issue, you’ll find the fabrics you need to take your projects from inspiration to installation in Part 2 of our annual Specialty Fabrics Showcase, including an especially robust category of fabrics that offer health, safety and protective features. As we have reported in the pages of Review for the last year, fabric innovators have persevered through this pandemic by daring mighty new things.