Satellites, space station crew watch horror below
(CNN) -- The smoldering aftermath of air attacks on Washington and New York was clearly visible in images released Wednesday, snapped by satellites and an international space station resident.
The extent of damage to the Pentagon was evident in a picture from one of the most powerful imaging satellites, which offered a rare overhead glimpse of the charred southern section of U.S. military headquarters, since authorities grounded air traffic after the Tuesday assault.
The picture was taken by IKONOS, a private imaging spacecraft that can distinguish features one meter across, sharp enough to discern the particular stroke of a swimmer in a pool.
IKONOS also aimed its camera on the wreckage of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The image, taken from a height of 423 miles, shows an area of white and gray dust and smoke where the 110-story twin towers had stood the day before.
Offering a more panoramic perspective from space, several NASA satellites observed the long gray plume of smoke drifting along the coast from the smoldering Twin Towers. The spacecraft included Terra, the flagship of a fleet of space agency orbiters monitoring the world environment.
Terra took the photograph a few hours after the attack. In the color-enhanced image, the dark blue colors depict the streaming smoke while the light blues represent concrete surfaces. The picture was snapped from a height of between 600 and 900 miles, according to NASA.
Grim video from Alpha
Aboard the international space station, U.S. commander Frank Culbertson and his two Russian crewmates watched in horror as lower Manhattan burned. Culbertson documented the drama with a camcorder from 240 miles high.
"As we went over Maine, we could see New York City and the smoke from the fires," he told NASA's Mission Control in Houston, Texas.
"I hope that the people responsible are caught and brought to justice as soon as possible. But first our prayers and condolences to all lost."
NASA closed its major space facilities after the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States. At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA technicians took steps to protect four space shuttles, each valued at about $2 billion.
Early Tuesday, hijackers took over four commercial airliners and transformed them into suicide bombers. The unknown attackers sent two of the planes into the twin towers, which burst into flames and soon collapsed.
Another plane crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth went down in rural Pennsylvania, some presume short of a target near Washington, D.C.
Killed were all 266 passengers and crew members aboard the planes; perhaps thousands in the World Trade Center, along with hundreds of firefighters and policemen; and more than 100 people at the Pentagon.
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