NASA marks 9/11 anniversary with unique satellite images

Most are from Earth but one is also from Mars.
Ameya Paleja
Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center.
Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center.

NASA 

As the world remembered the events of 9/11 on its 21st anniversary, NASA also took a pause to look back at the events of that day and its efforts to commemorate the lives lost. On its website, the space agency shared images and stories of how it was involved on and after 9/11.

In a series of coordinated attacks, four commercial airplanes were hijacked by terrorists on the morning of September 11, 2001. Two of these planes were flown deliberately into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Tower Complex in New York City. The resultant fire weakened the steel structures of the buildings, which ultimately led to their collapse. 2,753 people died that day.

The third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia, which claimed 184 lives, while the fourth crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania after onboard passengers resisted terrorist attempts.

NASA's involvement in 9/11

As a space agency, NASA was not involved in the emergency responses at any of the sites. But its programs were pressed into service by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to monitor air quality in the areas where the planes were flown. NASA's sensors were flown over the areas in search of possible aerial contaminants, while its satellites were used to monitor them from above.

NASA marks 9/11 anniversary with unique satellite images
New York City as captured from the ISS

Astronaut Frank Culbertson was onboard the International Space Station (ISS) at the time of the attacks, the only American who was not on the planet. As the ISS flew over New York City, Culbertson took pictures of the event from space and also documented his thoughts, which NASA shared in 2013.

NASA also flew 6000 U.S. flags, each 4x6 inches onboard the STS-108 that flew on the Endeavour Space Shuttle. Upon their return to Earth, these flags were distributed to the families of the victims of the attacks in June 2002.

NASA marks 9/11 anniversary with unique satellite images
STS-108 astronauts Mark Kelly, left, and Dan Tani hold commemorative American flags the shuttle Endeavour in December 2001.

NASA  

Memories on Mars

Honeybee Robotics is a spacecraft technology company that was building tools to grind weathered rinds off rocks on Mars. Located in lower Manhattan, the company was less than a mile away from the site of the attack in New York.

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Even as the lives of people in the city came to a grinding halt, the employees needed to continue working on their tools so that they could be sent along the Spirit and Opportunity rovers to explore the red planet's rocky interiors.

The team, on a tight schedule to deliver its tools to allow sufficient time for testing before the launch, could not help others as the city tried to find its feet. Instead, they paid tribute to the victims by using an aluminum sheet recovered from the site of the collapsed Twin Towers as a cable shield on the abrasion tools they built.

NASA marks 9/11 anniversary with unique satellite images
This view of an American flag on metal recovered from the site of the World Trade Center towers shortly after their destruction on Sept. 11, 2001, was taken on Mars on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the towers.

The rovers might go silent on the Red planet, but the memories of 9/11 will remain for millions of years to come, the NASA webpage said.

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