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Frank Culbertson watched 9/11 from the ISS

I was flabbergasted, then horrified. My first thought was that this wasn't a real conversation, that I was still listening to one of my Tom Clancy tapes. It just didn't seem possible on this scale in our country.

Expedition Three Commander Frank L. Culbertson was on the ISS on September 11, 2001. He wrote a letter about the events:

I zipped around the station until I found a window that would give me a view of NYC and grabbed the nearest camera. It happened to be a video camera, and I was looking south from the window of Michael's cabin.

The smoke seemed to have an odd bloom to it at the base of the column that was streaming south of the city. After reading one of the news articles we just received, I believe we were looking at NY around the time of, or shortly after, the collapse of the second tower. How horrible…

I panned the camera all along the East Coast to the south to see if I could see any other smoke around Washington, or anywhere else, but nothing was visible.

It was pretty difficult to think about work after that.


A couple of days later, he added:

Tonight the Russian capcom told us that because of the special day of remembrance in the US, all day people had been bringing flowers and lining all the walls of the US embassy in Moscow, and this evening they were lighting candles in the street outside the embassy. How the world has changed.

Find photos of 9/11 from space on NASA's Expedition 3 gallery. Expedition 3 members were astronaut Frank Culbertson (center), commander, flanked by cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin (left) and Vladimir Dezhurov, both flight engineers representing Rosaviakosmos. Photo credit: NASA


Today, Frank Culbertson is Executive Vice President and General Manager of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group. Orbital is the company who launched the LADEE satellite four days ago.



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