Rocks are phenomenal time keepers. Their composition, shape, and age can make an otherwise barren environment reveal its secrets.
On Mars, rocks are front and center in the ongoing quest to uncover the planet’s history and find evidence of past life. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to send men to Mars yet; men with their built-in geology kits: eyes, hammer-wielding hands, and clever brains.
Instead, we send geology-capable surrogates in the form of rovers like Spirit and Opportunity. And in the case of these two rovers, their geologic instruments are also a tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Smashing a rock with a rover’s arm is a little dicey and potentially very problematic. So the MER team behind Spirit and Opportunity (both of which landed on Mars in 2004) came up with an easier and safer way to see inside a rock: scrape away its weathered surface. Then individual instruments -- spectrometers to determine composition, magnets to collect magnetic dust particles, and a microscopic imager for high resolution photos -- could do the science. The tool for this first step, scraping into the rocks, was the rock abrasion tool or RAT.
The small tube-shaped RAT, about the size of a soda can, was designed to grind and brush away dirt from a rock’s surface. The result was a small circular depression revealing the rock’s interior. Because the tool’s small parts were prone to clogging with dust and rock shavings, each instrument also included a wire brush to keep the “teeth” clean and maintain its cutting power. This quick fix also had the benefit of avoiding cross contaminating between different rocks.
The RATs were designed and built by Honeybee Robotics, a New York City company created and led Steve Gorevan. Founded in 1983, Honeybee got its first NASA contract in 1986. Since then, the company has worked on over 100 NASA projects with nearly all the the agency’s centers -- fitting since Gorevan pursued engineering because of a childhood desire to work for NASA.
Opportunity’s rock abrasion tool at the end of her robotic arm
But Gorevean isn’t just clever about engineering, he’s also clever about his health and fitness. In 2001, though he lived just blocks away from Honeybee’s Manhattan offices, he biked to work along a circuitous route that took him through the plaza at the World Trade Center.
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.
Steve Kondos, the JPL engineer in charge of the Honeybee RAT contract, came up with the way for the New York company to honor the victims: include material from the wreckage of the World Trade Center on the rovers. A lasting tribute on Spirit and Opportunity from the whole MER team.
Rather than having a Honeybee employee walk over to a fire station and ask for a piece of metal, the idea went through formal channels all the way to mayor Rudy Giuliani who approved the idea. Less than three months later, a representative from the mayor’s office arrived at Honeybee’s building with a box. It contained debris from both towers: a steel bracket, two large bolts, and a twisted plate of aluminum. The acrid smell that had permeated the city after the attacks was also preserved in that small box.
Among the pieces of debris, the aluminum plate stood out. The RATs 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 two cable shield monuments of the September 11 attacks, whose flags show up beautifully in the rovers’ color pictures, are still there (though looking a little dust covered in recent photos). And they should endure for millennia.
Sweden may be at war "in a few years" - top brass in leaked document 2016-02-13 5:24
In a few years Sweden may be engaged in a war with a “qualified opponent” after two centuries of peace, a senior Swedish commander has told soldiers in an internal brochure.
The alarming message was reportedly sent by Major General Anders Brännström, the Army chief, in a brochure distributed among the participants of a major annual event that is to open ...
Danish imam urges govt to accept child marriages among refugees 2016-02-13 4:57
A high-profile imam has urged the Danish government to accept child brides, as the practice is part of the culture of many refugees arriving in the country. It follows an announcement by Denmark that such couples will be separated under Danish law.
Imam Oussama El-Saadi, of the Aarhus mosque in Denmark, said that child brides should be looked at from a ...
White Parents in Virginia Shutdown White Guilt Video! 2016-02-13 4:56
You see folks? This is what happens when you stop blaming the Joo, and you get the fuck off your favorite bitch corner and start taking action! This is what happens when parents start parenting again! What? You’re gonna brainwash our kids with your filth and lies? We don’t think so. How would you like an empty school with no ...
Hungarian Top Economist: Civil War is Coming to Europe 2016-02-13 2:36 Zsolt Bayer, Hungarian journalist, publicist, and co-founder of Hungary's currently ruling political party, and Dr. László Bogár, former politician and leading economist, discuss the Cologne sexual assualts committed by migrants on New Year's Eve, 2016.
This short part of the 60-minute long television program that aired on Echo TV on January 8, 2016, is of a rant by Mr. Bogár warning ...
British scientists granted permission to genetically modify human embryos 2016-02-12 23:48 The Francis Crick institute will genetically edit the leftover embryos from from IVF clinics
British scientists have been granted permission to genetically modify human embryos by the fertility regulator.
The scientists want to deactivate genes in leftover embryos from IVF clinics to see if it hinders development.
It will only be the second time in the world that such a procedure has ...