Mars tribute to 9/11 victims

Debris from the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre is sitting on the surface of Mars. Engineers used mangled metal from the wreckage of the 9/11 outrage to build parts for two robot rovers now exploring the Red Planet.

The cuff on rover Spirit (NASA)
The aluminium cuff on rover Spirit (NASA)

The quiet tribute was the idea of staff at Honeybee Robotics, a company operating close to the New York disaster scene who built drilling tools for Nasa. Many of the Manhatten workers had to flee choking clouds of smoke and dust after the twin towers were destroyed by two airliners in September 2001.

They said nothing publicly at the time. But, deeply affected by the tragedy and with the help of then New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, they got hold of some scrap metal from the ruins. The twisted aluminium was flown to Honeybee’s machine shop in Texas. There the engineers used it to make two shields to protect wiring on the drills on the arms of the rovers. Each curved shield, the size of a credit card, is adorned with the American flag.

The two craft, called Spirit and Opportunity, landed in January 2004 and are still operating after more than two years. Until now, few apart from the Honeybee staff and mission team have been aware of the moving cosmic memorial to the victims of 9/11.

Honeybee’s chairman and founder Stephen Gorevan said: “It was intended to be a quiet tribute. But enough time has passed. We want the families to know.”

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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