On this somber occasion marking the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has taken new images of itself on 9/11/11 showing a piece of metal recovered from the wreckage of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City that was carried all the way to the planet Mars as a commemorative memorial to the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001.
On Sept. 11, 2011 (Martian Sol 2713), Opportunity snapped the memorial image above showing the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) and an American Flag – evoking the memory of the Twin Towers – from a slope on a Martian hill named Cape York which in turn is a segment of the rim of a gigantic crater named Endeavour.
Opportunity took the new image of the RAT and 9/11 US Flag memorial on Mars on the exact day timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
The image shows the arm extended for inspection of target on a rock called “Chester Lake”, according to NASA officials. Opportunity is driving in a northerly direction up the Cape York hill on her scientific expedition of the crater’s rim.
Both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were destroyed by the terrorists on that terrible day and nearly 3000 precious people were killed during horrifying historic events that changed America and the World forever.
The RAT was built for NASA and both rovers by Honeybee Robotics which at that time was located less than a mile away from the WTC near the southern tip of Manhattan.
Steve Gorevan, the founder and chairman of Honeybee and a member of the rover science team, told me in a past interview that he was on his way to work and out on the city streets within a few blocks of the Twin Towers when he suddenly heard the sounds of the jet engines just before the first tower was struck.
Gorevan and the Honeybee employees watched the tragic events unfold from their company’s offices and rooftop the rest of the day. Following the terror attacks, Gorevan said access to Honeybee was restricted for weeks and the firm was on a tight deadline to deliver the RAT’s to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California where the rovers were being assembled.
The idea for somehow placing a Martian memorial on the rovers was presented. Gorevan told me that he was able to secure metallic pieces from the WTC wreckage through the Office of the then NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani a few weeks after the attacks.
Aluminum shards were delivered by the Mayor’s office to Honeybee along with a note indicating their authenticity. These were soon fashioned into an aluminum shield that was placed on each RAT along with a US Flag. The shield serves as a cable guard.
Gorevan says the twin towers memorial was purposely kept quiet for some time until well after both rovers landed out of respect for the victims’ families.
Opportunity is healthy and continuing her exploration of Endeavour crater which harbors geologic formations and rocks unlike any previously investigated by either of the Mars Exploration (MER) rovers.
Along the rim of Endeavour crater rover scientists hope to discover and analyze clay minerals which formed in pH neutral water billions of years ago and a habitable environment much more favorable to the formation of life compared to all the other spots studied by either rover thus far.
Both rovers far exceeded their original 90 days warranties with many years of added bonus time for science exploration.
Read Ken’s continuing features about Mars starting here
NASA Robot arrives at ‘New’ Landing Site holding Clues to Ancient Water Flow on Mars
Opportunity Arrives at Huge Martian Crater with Superb Science and Scenic Outlook
Opportunity Snaps Gorgeous Vistas nearing the Foothills of Giant Endeavour Crater
Dramatic New NASA Animation Depicts Next Mars Rover in Action
Opportunity Rover Heads for Spirit Point to Honor Dead Martian Sister; Science Team Tributes
Opportunity Rover Completes Exploration of fascinating Santa Maria Crater
Opportunity Surpasses 30 KM Driving and Snaps Skylab Crater in 3 D
Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight – www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter