As people reflect on the 9/11 terrorist attacks after a decade NASA reminded them that the Mars Rovers carried an interplanetary memorial with them to the red planet. Two aluminum shields were fashioned out of metal that was salvaged from the pieces of the fallen World Trade Center and dispatched in 2003 with the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers to Mars.
The shields were embellished with the American flag and were designed to protect the cables on the rovers’ rock abrasion tools. Stephen Gorevan, the founder and chairman of Honeybee Robotics, which was based less than a mile away from the World Trade Center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks was responsible for the shields.
Goveran said that Steve Kondos, a JPL engineer who was working with the Honeybee team suggested using the rovers as a memorial to the tragedy. Goveran then got fragments from the former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's office and used the pieces of aluminum to design the shields. The quite tribute was made public after a year when he felt that enough time had passed and they wanted the families to known.
In another race to the moon the Moon Express has hired NASA mentored FIRST Robotics Champions to develop lunar robots. The contender for the Google Lunar X prize has established the Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation or MERLIN.
MERLIN is to develop robotic technology to support the company’s lunar mission. It will be headed by Marco Chacin, a graduate of the International Space University who holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering. He also developed robotic solutions for the JAXA/ISAS "Hayabusa" asteroid sample return missions.
Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said that the MERLIN is formed around the best and most accomplished young robotics engineers. He added FIRST Robotics has inspired their life passion; now they are working to be FIRST on the Moon.