A Memorial to 9/11… on Mars

by Jason Major on September 11, 2012

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Today, on the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, countless hearts and minds will be reflecting upon a day that changed our world forever and remembering those who lost their lives in the tragic collapse of the twin towers. Memorial events will be held in many locations around the planet… and even, in a small yet poignant way, on another planet. For, unknown to many, two pieces of the World Trade Center are currently on the surface of Mars: one affixed to the rover Spirit, now sitting silently next to a small rise dubbed “Home Plate”, and the other on its sister rover Opportunity, still actively exploring the rim of Endeavour crater.

Even more than scientific exploration tools, these rovers are also interplanetary memorials to all the victims of 9/11.

(The following is a repost of an article first featured on Universe Today in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.)

In September of 2001 workers at Honeybee Robotics in lower Manhattan were busy preparing the Rock Abrasion Tools that the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity would each be equipped with, specialized instruments that would allow scientists to study the interiors of Martian rocks. After the World Trade Center attacks occurred, the company wanted a way to memorialize those who had lost their lives.

Through what was undoubtedly some incredibly skillful use of contacts, Honeybee founder and MER science team member Stephen Gorevan – on a suggestion by JPL engineer Steve Kondos and with help from the NYC mayor’s office and rover mission leader Steve Squyres – was able to procure two pieces of aluminum from the tower debris. These were fashioned into cylindrical cable shields by a contracted metal shop in Round Rock, Texas, and had American flags adhered to each by Honeybee engineer Tom Myrick.

The image above, taken in 2004, shows the cable shield with American flag on the Rock Abrasion Tool attached to Spirit. At right is an image of the flag shield on Opportunity, acquired on September 11, 2011.

The rovers were launched in the summer of 2003 and have both successfully operated on Mars many years past their planned initial mission timelines. Spirit currently sits silent, having ceased communication in March 2010, but Opportunity is still going strong in its exploration of the Martian surface.

“It’s gratifying knowing that a piece of the World Trade Center is up there on Mars. That shield on Mars, to me, contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans.”

– Stephen Gorevan, Honeybee Robotics founder and chairman

These memorials will remain on Mars long after both rovers have ceased to run, subtle memorials to thousands of lives and testaments to our ability to forge ahead in the name of hopefulness and discovery.

Original source: OnOrbit.com

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Photo of Manhattan taken from orbit on September 11, 2001. (NASA)

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

SJStar September 11, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Sad day for everyone, but is this relevant to so many that were lost?
It might be fitting, but I frankly somehow don’t very feel comfortable with this story or the underlying message. Again it is better to remember those who died in quite contemplation of the tragedy where it happened instead of some lonely cold distant planet. Might be wrong, but that is what I think…

spew September 12, 2012 at 11:17 PM

Seriously, you’re not understanding the common etiquette and other people now comment on this. This isn’t the forums for what you’re doing and whatever message that you’re trying to convey is being lost.

If you were really concerned about whatever message isn’t being represented, discuss it with the admins, or go build your own blog in Russian and write about stuff about plutonium. Quite frankly, no one gives a crap if you’re not comfortable about the content; this isn’t the forums to conduct your therapy sessions.

SJStar September 13, 2012 at 6:31 AM

Show some honesty and your slammed for it.

Also what has the to do with the story here? All it is a personal attack on me, and the one thing we know on the web is that such comments will hurt you far more than it hurts me. “Grow up” just might be good advice methinks!

spew September 13, 2012 at 6:59 AM

After writing “Baah” for quite sometime to different people on this forum, I think it’s a sensible advice you should consider taking yourself. Good job.

SJStar September 13, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Again. What’ this to do with the story here?

Tim September 12, 2012 at 4:11 PM

I think it’s rather sickening that this article overlaps with real science. After all it’s real science that has provided absolute truths of what really brought down those WTC buildings. Perhaps one of the biggest cover-ups in modern history, it’s sad the majority of US citizens actually believe it was “terrorism”. Patriotism and exploration always seem to go hand-in-hand; my response is… silly humans.

Olaf2 September 12, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Please bug off with crap like this.
There is no place of crack pottery on a science site.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst September 12, 2012 at 5:38 PM

You mean science such as how hot jet fuel burns at vs how hot steel must be to buckle and fail…? There are over 200 (literally) other valid science related questions/topics regarding how the official story defies the laws of physics and science.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst September 12, 2012 at 5:32 PM

“Eeew” *winces* Not really my cup of tea, politics and nationalism…Especially that event. Gotta say, though their sentiment is expressed more crassly than I would like to see myself on a science site, I have to say I agree with Olaf2, though I can understand how it ties in with being a science related post and how many people that read UT would appreciate an article like this… Just my personal biased.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst September 12, 2012 at 5:35 PM

OK my bad. I see Olaf2 was responding to Tim about his 9/11 conspiracy tainted post and the the article proper. To clarify, I’m with Tim per sentiment about this…

Tim September 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM

Thank you Jeffrey. I agree with your post also – UT seems to blur the lines of science and nationalism. I guess it’s hard for me to hold back when it comes to topics like 9/11, how blind everyone must be to believe what they are told.

Logabo Design September 12, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Keep politics out if this forum PLEASE!!!!

spew September 13, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Thank you. Finally you’re beginning to understand what I’ve been trying to tell you for quite sometime.

SJStar September 13, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Up yours

spew September 13, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Well, since you are in the spirit of editing out and cleaning up your infantile comments such as “Up yours” (the internet is funny this way on how things simply cannot be erased), you might want to continue with some of your other comments such as “Baaa” on
http://www.universetoday.com/97272/an-awesome-view-of-curiositys-tummy/ .

There’s no personal attack here and I’ll leave you alone after this. I was simply trying to keep things kosher, but had get the hands a little dirty in the process of “roughing” your feathers a bit. Am I a little too abrasive? YES. Tactless? I am most certainly, but you’re getting the message. I hope there’s no hard feelings, for there should be none.

Best wishes

SJStar September 13, 2012 at 9:04 PM

What condescending filthy. Wake up to yourself, you grub.

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