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Astronaut on 9/11: "Tears don't flow the same in space."

9/11/2011 12:52:00 AM

It's been 10 years since that horrific day when commercial airlines were used as coordinated weapons of terrorism. I was a second year graduate student at the time, balancing academic and research duties between expeditions to the South Pacific and the Antarctic. Like most Americans, I spent September 11, 2001 feeling shellshocked as I awoke to the news and spent the day watching events unfold on television. I later realized how profound and ubiquitous this communal experience was the world over, and I mean that quite literally.

One American has the singular distinction of witnessing the traumatic 9/11 events unfold from space. A month into his mission as Commander of ISS Expedition 3, Astronaut Frank Culbertson awoke to the news of the attacks like so many of us did. He grabbed the nearest camera and starting photographing the scenes in New York and Washington, D.C. from his vantage point some 250 miles over the Earth. Since he happened to be using a video camera, Culbertson also recorded audio commentary with his candid real-time reactions to what was happening. In his remarks, he juxtaposed descriptions of the destruction with reassurances that, in the wider context, these scars on the Earth are minor, "New York City is still very beautiful... The country still looks good." Only an astronaut could have made a statement like that on 9/11.

The Yahoo video! compiling NASA footage taken by Astronaut Culbertson is available below.



The day following the tramautic events, Commander Culbertson wrote a touching letter, describing his personal feelings about the 9/11 attacks from his unique perspective. I've pulled some excerpts from it below:

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The Astronaut's Guide to Life in Space

9/02/2011 01:59:00 PM

So you made it to space. Now what do you do? Well, look no further. NPR assembled some 1980's NASA footage of Space Shuttle astronauts and made this lighthearted video guide to surviving life in space. The playful, retro-styled film shows them eating, playing, exercising, and horsing around.



Take a lesson from these darkly humorous astronaut suicide photos courtesy of Wired.com and don't let your nostalgia for the now bygone Space Shuttle era get you down. Let's hope no astronauts are so depressed by the Shuttle's retirement to consider such drastic measures, especially in light of the recent Russian Progress launch failure and the possibility that the ISS may have to be abandoned in November. With the upcoming SpaceX Dragon test docking to the ISS in early December, maybe NASA won't have to rely on Russia as its sole ride into space for too much longer.

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