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 today to pay tribute to the heroes of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Aboard Endeavour are 6,000 small United States flags that will be distributed to heroes and families of the victims of the attacks after the shuttle returns to Earth. Also aboard are 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.
Shuttle Commander Dom Gorie 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 Sept. 11 and will be on their way home to Earth when Endeavour departs the station next week. The space station flew above New York the morning of Sept. 11, and the crew 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."
While the unloading of almost three tons of new food, supplies and experiments continued today, Culbertson's crew also conducted a handover of station work to the oncoming Expedition Four crew -- Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Dan Bursch and Carl Walz. Also today, Endeavour fired its steering jets gradually over the course of an hour to increase the station's altitude by about two statute miles, the first of three similar reboost maneuvers planned for this week's mission.
The hatches were closed between the shuttle and the station, with only the Expedition Four crew remaining aboard the station, at about 6:43 p.m. CST today in preparation for a space walk planned from the shuttle on Monday. Closing the hatch allows the cabin pressure on the shuttle to be lowered slightly, part of a protocol that protects space walkers from decompression sickness when they go to the low pressure, pure oxygen space suits.
Astronauts Linda Godwin and Dan Tani are scheduled to exit the shuttle airlock at 11:24 a.m. CST Monday to begin four hours of work outside to add insulation to mechanisms that rotate the station's solar arrays. After the space walk is completed Monday afternoon, the hatches between Endeavour and the station will be reopened.
The crews begin a sleep period at 10:19 p.m. today and awaken at 6:19 a.m. on Monday. The next mission status report will be issued at about 7 a.m. Monday or as events warrant.
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