by David Mendez
On Sept. 11, 2001, mechanical engineer Steve Gorevan was biking from his home in Manhattan to the offices of his company, Honeybee Robotics, where they were developing tools for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers to use during their mission on Mars. As usual, Gorevan took his typical route, one which included a ride through the World Trade Center plaza.
On the morning of Sept. 11, he heard jet engines on his ride. Not the sound of a regular approach to LaGuardia or JFK Airports, either, but the out-of place sound of engines accelerating and flying too low to the ground. Then he heard a crash. He stopped and got off his bike. Standing in the street with a dozen or so others, he stared at the flames spewing out of the North tower. After a minute, he hopped back on his bike and pedaled the mile north to Honeybee.
Honeybee employees watched the morning’s events unfold from their building’s rooftop. They saw the towers fall and watched as masses migrated away from the site, ghostlike from a layer of soot. But work at Honeybee couldn’t stop; employees couldn't put their work on hold to help the city recover. They had to go to Mars.
So the company did the next best thing they could: Include pieces of the World Trade Center itself on the rovers, which were designed to stay on Mars, as a lasting tribute to the Twin Towers. After a few months of communication with the office of the-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Honeybee team was given a box of debris, including a "twisted aluminum plate."
The [Robotic Abrasion Tools] had a lot of aluminum parts, including cable shields designed to protect the electric cables that ran the instrument from possible damage if it bumped into a rock. The aluminum from the World Trade Center was the perfect piece to cut and shape into cable shields.
Honeybee made four — two for the flight rovers and two as spares — and vacuum sealed an American flag on each to ensure they wouldn’t peel off.
The tributes remain there to this day — and they should be there for millions of years.