On December 9, the 10 astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit took a break from the transfer of supplies, experiments and equipment to and from the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station to pay tribute to the heroes of the attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Aboard Endeavour were 6,000 small United States flags that were later distributed to heroes and families of the victims of the attacks after the shuttle returned to Earth. Also aboard were a U.S. flag that was found at the World Trade Center site after the attacks, a U.S. flag that has flown above the Pennsylvania state capitol, a U.S. Marine Corps Colors flag from the Pentagon, a New York Fire Department flag, and a poster that includes photographs of firefighters lost in the attacks.
The tribute, which was carried on NASA Television, included the playing of the U.S. and Russian national anthems in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station Mission Control Centers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Remarks from the three commanders and the playing of a taped tribute from the ten crewmembers aboard the space shuttle and orbiting space station were also included.
Shuttle Commander Dominic L. Gorie (Captain, USN) said the flag carried aboard Endeavour, which came from the World Trade Center, elicited especially poignant thoughts among the crew. "This was found among the rubble and it has a few tears in it. You can still smell the ashes. It is a tremendous symbol of our country," Gorie said. "Just like our country, it was a little battered and bruised and torn, but with a little bit of repair it is going to fly as high and as beautiful as it ever did. And that is just what our country is doing."
International Space Station Expedition 3 Commander Frank Culbertson and his crew (cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin) were in orbit September 11 and could see evidence of the attacks out the windows. "That was quite a disturbing sight, as you might imagine, to see my country under attack," Culbertson said. “All of us were affected by that day greatly.
"To all of those who lost loved ones, to all of those who worked so hard to help people survive, and to the people who are trying so hard to stop this threat, we wish you the best. We have thought about you often over the last three months that we've been here and we will continue to keep you in our thoughts," Culbertson added. "We will continue, I hope, to set a good example of how people can accomplish incredible things when they have the right goals. We will continue to think of how we can improve peace around the world and how we can improve knowledge, and hopefully that will bring people together."
Culbertson, Dezhurov, and Tyurin returned to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on December 17, 2001 at 12:55 p.m. EST.