NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover landed on Mars on 2.18.21 after a journey lasting over six months. NASA released the video of its descent, including a view of the parachute attached to the rover.
It’s a red and white parachute. At first glance, it looks like a random pattern. But hidden inside the colors is a message left using binary code. It says “Dare Mighty Things” and gives the GPS coordinates of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (the quote is their slogan).
Turning this into a story, what if a message like this started a worldwide scavenger hunt?
The world’s richest man has passed away. His will says that his fortune goes to whoever follows the clues. The whole world looks for these clues, and a message in a lunar landing holds the first.
The main character would be a poor student obsessed with space—similar to Ready, Player One.
The first clue becomes mainstream after a few days, and by then, he’s already working on the second clue, which happens to be in a city near his home. It’s a wonderful stroke of luck. After he becomes the third person/team to discover the second clue, a wealthy corporation gives him their financial support—a company with an eccentric leader.
The opponents in the story are the teams and people also looking for clues. In the end, it comes to light that the company backing him plans on double-crossing him before he final clue so they can acquire the wealth themselves.
The story could take place worldwide, with 3-5 clues before the final “battle,” which is a logic puzzle similar to the sphinx’s riddle. Better yet, the last clue could be at the sphinx, and everyone gets caught up with the sphinx’s riddle, leaving space for the hero to identify the final clue’s true nature.
In short, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Ready, Player One in a worldwide scavenger hunt.