On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, NASA has remembered the day in a unique way. The space agency shared satellite images taken on the day of the attacks. In the images, billowing smoke is seen rising into the sky from above after two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC.
“The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were a national tragedy that resulted in a staggering loss of life and a significant change in American culture. Each year, we pause and never forget. Beyond remembering and honoring the Americans who died that day, NASA also assisted FEMA in New York in the days afterward. [NASA also] remembered the victims by providing flags flown aboard the Space Shuttle to their families,” NASA wrote in a release.
NASA Shares Astronaut’s Account of Watching 9/11 Transpire From Space
In addition to the images, NASA also shared quotes from astronaut Frank Culbertson who witnessed the event from space. On September 11, he was aboard the International Space Station (ISS) during the attacks.
Culbertson just happened to be the only American on the crew. As the station flew over the NYC region, the astronaut documented the 9/11 attack in a series of photographs.
“The smoke seemed to have an odd bloom to it at the base of the column that was streaming south of the city. After reading one of the news articles we just received, I believe we were looking at [New York] around the time of, or shortly after, the collapse of the second tower. How horrible…,” Culbertson wrote in a post during the attack.
“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point,” he said. “The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.”
The Space Agency Remembers 9/11 Victims
Following the terrorist attacks on our country, the government called NASA’s science programs “into action.”
The agency worked closely with FEMA to identify aerial contaminants. From space, ships and satellites monitored affected areas from above.
In further remembrance of 9/11 victims, NASA flew almost 6,000 small American flags aboard Endeavour’s December 2001 flight. Later on in the summer of 2002, NASA gave the flags to relatives of the September 11 victims.
Additionally, NASA took aluminum recovered from the wreckage of the World Traade Center towers. They used it to create rock abrasion tools that included American flags for the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
As the agency noted, the Mars rovers would one day lie silent on the planet they worked on. The onboard 9/11 memorials on the tools would remain on Mars as well. As NASA referenced, the memorials “could remain in good condition [on Mars] for millions of years.”