The 9/11 attacks as seen from space

Posted by Kate Taylor

When the 9/11 terror attacks took place ten years ago, they were filmed by the only American not on earth at the time.

NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson was on board the International Space Station when the planes hit.

"I saw it out the window and we took video as the second tower was collapsing. Didn’t know what was happening but I knew it was really bad because there was a big cloud of debris covering Manhattan," he says.

"That's when it really became painful because it was like seeing a wound in the side of your country."

In a letter the next day, Culbertson said he was horrified, and that at first he felt he must be listening to a Tom Clancy novel.

"Other than the emotional impact of our country being attacked and thousands of our citizens and maybe some friends being killed, the most overwhelming feeling being where I am is one of isolation," he wrote.

It's difficult to describe how it feels to be the only American completely off the planet at a time such as this."

Meanwhile, NASA has revealed that fragments from the Twin Towers are now on Mars.

In September 2001, Honeybee Robotics employees in lower Manhattan were building a pair of tools for grinding the weathered rinds off Martian rocks for analysis by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

Following the attacks, and with the approval of the New York mayor's office, aluminum recovered from the Twin Towers was incorporated into an aluminum cuff serving as a cable shield on each of the rock abrasion tools.

"It's gratifying knowing that a piece of the World Trade Center is up there on Mars. That shield on Mars, to me, contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans," says Stephen Gorevan, Honeybee founder and chairman, and a member of the Mars rover science team.