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Crews of Space Station Alpha and Space Shuttle Endeavour Host Tribute to Victims and Heroes of 9/11

Aired December 9, 2001 - 17:22   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: The Space Shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station crews are hosting a tribute to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien is joining us now with more on this. Miles, do we know what they have planned?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: No. As a matter of fact, NASA doesn't know itself. We called our friends in Houston, and we said, could you give us a sense of what they're going to be doing up there in just a few moments' time, and they said it's completely unscripted and up to the Commander Dominic Gorie, who is the commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

They're on their fifth day of their mission, and they have began the process of transferring all kinds of food staffs and equipment and experiments into the International Space Station, carrying it up on the space age shipping container, if you will. They also have officially transferred the crews. Frank Culbertson, NASA astronaut, and his two Russian crewmates have come off the space station. They are now officially members of the Endeavour crew after a 117-day mission. They will be replaced by Yury Onufrienko and two NASA astronauts who will be up there until May.

Take a look at these live pictures. This is just mission control in Houston, familiar shots to you, while the flight director, the so- called capsule communicator. I think if you look in the foreground there, you can see there are some caps there from the New York Police Department, Fire Department of New York, all part of the commemoration, in addition to the flags, of course, for the 9-11.

Now, what is going to happen now, among other things, they're going to be making reference to the fact that there are some 6,000 tiny American flags on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Those tiny American flags will return to Florida, or California if the case may be, aboard Endeavour. And they will be distributed to family members who lost loved ones in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, as well as some of the survivors.

In addition to that, on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour is a fire department banner for the New York Fire Department, some police badges, about three dozen of those, some of those linked to police officers who died in that attack, as well as some fire department patches. All of those also will be returned to the loved ones that are associated with those badges and patches. In addition, there is a tattered and charred flag, which flew atop the World Trade Center, as well as the Marine Corp flag that was inside the Pentagon at the time of the attack.

Now, that's a crowded laboratory, U.S. laboratory on board the International Space Station. I will tell you who is who real quickly. There's Commander Dominic Gorie of Endeavour. Right next to him is Frank Culbertson, who is the commander of the space station or was -- is the outgoing commander of the space station on his way home right now.

Going back there, that is one of his crewmates, Vladimir Dezhurov. That's Daniel Tani, who tomorrow will be conducting a space walk. This is Mikhail Tyurin, who, along with Vladimir Dezhurov, conducted a critical space walk to make it possible for the space shuttle crew to come and visit because there were some problems with the docking of a Russian spacecraft. They cleared some debris to make that possible.

Linda Godwin is right there in the back, peeking around there. There is Carl Walz, and there is the pilot of Space Shuttle Endeavour Mark Kelly. They are all getting prepared for this commemoration, which should happen. Yury Onufrienko, who is the new commander of the International Space Station beginning -- actually, he is officially in charge at this moment. They will spend up to six months up in space, conducting experiments and becoming the fourth full-time crew of station keepers aboard the International Space Station Alpha.

The space shuttle attached to the International Space Station is now approaching the Baja Peninsula, and will be for the course of this event about 230 to 240 miles above North America, above the United States, perhaps symbolically fitting, I guess, as they make these statements and this commemoration for those who are victims of the September 11 attacks.

Now, Dominic Gorie is a Navy officer, and as his Navy custom will no doubt begin fairly punctually, as is NASA custom as well. This event should begin very shortly. And as I say, we really don't know what they are going to say. This is something that will be straight from the heart, not a scripted matter, if you will. I don't know if we need to worry since that screen up there where they were airing is now black. Oh, there it comes back. Now we have a picture. Hopefully NASA and Space Shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station Alpha will get going very shortly.

We are told -- we are going to stand by. As they wait in Houston, we will wait here, as this commemoration begins on board the Space Station Alpha. One hundred and seventeen days in space for Frank Culbertson and his crew, Mikhail Tyurin and Vladimir Dezhurov. I suspect they're happy to be on their way back home. Let's listen in as this commemoration begins with Dom Gorie, the commander of Endeavour.

As we wait for that to happen, let me just give you a brief preview of what's going to happen tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Houston. Please stand by while PAO reconfigures.

O'BRIEN: All right. They're going to be doing some reconfiguring. Public Affairs Office, PAO -- let me just tell you briefly, Linda Godwin will head outside with her space-walking partner Daniel Tani. They're going to spend at least four hours outside the space station, putting some protective blankets over some cylinders which rotate the solar arrays of the space station. The solar arrays are the largest thing ever to fly in lower orbit. Those blankets necessary to insulate the motors inside.

Here's Dominic Gorie, commander of Endeavour..

DOM GORIE, SHUTTLE COMMANDER: With us here today we have the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour along with the Expedition 3 crew and the Expedition 4 crew. Today, we'd like to take a few moments to honor the thousands of people in the United States and around the world that lost loved ones in the September 11 tragedy, and also honor the men and women of the armed forced around the world who are doing their best to stop this global threat of terrorism.

We are going to take this opportunity to honor those people with many, many flying items on the space shuttle. The NASA space program has a long history of flying items to commemorate courageous acts, people affected in numerous ways, and this flight is no exception. We have literally thousands of items on this flight. We are carrying 6,000 small American flags that will be distributed when we return to the families and loved ones of victims of September 11 in New York and Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

We have several large flags that we're flying. One is honoring the men and women who helped save untold lives with their actions on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. We have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) flag that some young Marines, as they were running through the Pentagon after it was attacked, found in a burning conference room. But I think one of the most significant items that we have, if not the most significant, is a large American flag that was flying atop the World Trade Center, and this was found amongst the rubble. It has a huge tears in it. You can still see the ashes. And when we first saw it, we were amazed that this flag survived. But it's just a tremendous symbol of our country.

Just like our country, it's a little bit bruised and battered and torn, with little repair it's going to fly high and as beautiful as it ever did, and that's just what our country is doing. So with all these items, along with items specifically for the police department and the fire department of New York City, we are just taking this opportunity to fly those many, many things and return them, and with this we can show our tribute to the men and women that were affected and those that are doing their best to stop this threat of terrorism around the world.

Right now, Yury has got a few comments as well.

COMMANDER YURY ONUFRIENKO, EXPEDITION 4: I just wanted to say that in this cooperation (UNINTELLIGIBLE), this is a really good example of how we need to work together, how if you have this cooperation, we can work (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the ground.

COMMANDER FRANK CULBERTSON, EXPEDITION 3: My name is Frank Culbertson, I am the commander of Expedition 3, and of course we were flying aboard the station on September the 11th at 8:36 a.m. Eastern when the first attack occurred. We were informed of it fairly shortly after it happened. We were flying over North America at the time. We were able to look out one the windows and actually see New York City under attack. That was quite a disturbing site, as you can imagine, to see my country under attack.

And we can see the smoke streaming off to the south, we could see the smoke (UNINTELLIGIBLE) New York, and I believe all three of us were thinking how terrible this must be for the people that were at the point of attack and their families and all that was following. Same thing holds true for Washington, D.C., as we flew over that an hour and a half later, with the smoke over the Pentagon.

All of us were affected by that day greatly. All of us thought about it and talked about it a lot on board, and received a lot of messages from people around the world in support of what we are doing and in support of the United States and the response that was necessary to this terrorist threat. And obviously, it affects everybody all around the world.

So 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 have been here after the attacks, and we will continue to think of you and keep you in our thoughts, and continue to do everything possible to demonstrate good international cooperation through the space program of all the countries involved in the International Space Station, and we will continue to we hope set a good example of how people can accomplish incredible things when they have the right goals.

So, thank you very much for your time. We will continue to think of how we can improve the peace around the world, how we can improve knowledge, and hopefully that will bring people together. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alpha, Endeavour, this is Houston, thank you for those awesome inspirational words. Please stand by while PAO reconfigures.

O'BRIEN: All right, there you have it. Dom Gorie began it all with some brief statements, followed by Yury Onufrienko and Frank Culbertson. Dom Gorie the commander of the Endeavour, Yury Onufrienko the new and current International Space Station commander, and finally Frank Culbertson, the commander who was there aboard and actually watched the events unfold from 240 miles above on September 11.

Brief comments, and yet comments from the heart from space, 240 miles above us, as Endeavour and the space station approach New York and the area of the Northeast of the United States -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you, Miles. Miles O'Brien.




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