A Memorial to 9/11… on Mars

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)

Twin Towers 9/11 Tribute by Opportunity Mars Rover

[/caption]

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 is still roving the red planet’s surface, nearly 8 years after safely landing on Jan 24, 2004. After an epic trek she recently arrived at the gigantic 14 mile wide Endeavour crater .

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.

Memorial Close-up Image Taken on Mars on Sept. 11, 2011
Close-up image taken on 9/11/11 of a piece of metal with the American flag on it of a NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars is made of aluminum recovered from the site of the World Trade Center towers in the weeks after their destruction on Sept. 11, 2001. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University/Arizona State University

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.

Memorial Image Taken on Mars on Sept. 11, 2011 of Robotic Arm at Work showing US Flag 9/11 Memorial on the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT). Image taken on Sol 2713 as the robot investigates a rock outcrop called Chester Lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

Endeavour Crater Panorama from Opportunity, Sol 2681, August 2011
Opportunity arrived at the rim of Endeavour on Sol 2681, August 9, 2011 and climbed up the ridge known as Cape York. Odyssey crater is visible at left. Opportunity drove north from here to snap a new 9/11 memorial image on Sept 11, 2011 marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Mosaic Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Kenneth Kremer

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

A Martian Memorial to 9/11

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks (has it already been ten years??) countless hearts and minds will be remembering the fateful day our world changed forever, and the many people who tragically lost their lives in the catastrophic collapse of the twin towers. Memorial events will be held in many locations around the world… and even, in a small yet poignant way, on another world. For, unknown to many, two pieces of the World Trade Center are on the surface of Mars: one affixed to the rover Spirit which sits silently in its permanent position near a small plateau called “Home Plate” and the other on its sister rover Opportunity, currently exploring the rim of the vast Endeavour crater.

Much more than scientific exploration tools, these rovers are also interplanetary memorials to the victims 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 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

The image above, taken in 2004, shows the cable shield with American flag on the Rock Abrasion Tool attached to Spirit.

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.

Read the full story by Keith Cowing on OnOrbit.com.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech