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STS108-339-020 (5-17 December 2001) — Astronauts Mark E. Kelly (left), STS-108 pilot, and Daniel M. Tani, mission specialist, hold a bag of several American flags on the aft flight deck of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The flags carried on the shuttle include 6,000 small U.S. flags, one U.S. flag that was recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center, a Marine Corps flag that was retrieved from the Pentagon, and an American flag from the State of Pennsylvania. Also onboard, is a large New York Fire Department flag, 23 replica New York Police Department shields, and 91 New York Police Department patches.

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe today leads a delegation of astronauts in a
special presentation of colors at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose
Center for Earth and Space in New York.

An American flag recovered from the site of the World Trade Center in the days
following the September 11 attacks returns home after traveling nearly 5 million
miles in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during STS-108 in December.

The flag, damaged but intact, was pulled from the debris by the New York City
Police Department. To honor the victims, families and those who helped in the
rescue and recovery efforts of September 11, NASA flew the recovered Stars and
Stripes as part of the agency’s Flags for Heroes and Families campaign.

“The tradition of carrying American flags into space dates back to the very
beginning of this historic agency,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “From the surface
of the Moon to the unchartered regions of our galaxy, NASA has flown the American
flag as a patriotic symbol of truth, honor and justice. It is appropriate that we
present this flag back to the city of New York on Flag Day.”

The American Museum of Natural History hosts today’s presentation. The Museum is
one of the world’s premiere scientific educational and cultural institutions.
Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to
discover, interpret and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural
world and the universe, through a wide-reaching program of scientific research,
education and exhibitions. In February 2000, the Museum of Natural History opened
the monumental 120-foot-high, 335,500 square-foot Frederick Phineas & Sandra
Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space.

“On behalf of the trustees and staff of the American Museum of Natural History,
we are deeply moved and very honored to host this meaningful presentation by
Administrator O’Keefe to Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki,” said Ellen V.
Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “The Museum shares a
deep commitment to science education with the city, the state and NASA. Today,
with the return of these precious items, we rededicate ourselves to our core
mission of advancing science literacy and cultural understanding in anticipation
of a future filled with courage, resilience and hope.”

The large American Flag, along with other commemorative badges, patches and other
items, were carried into space with nearly 6,000 smaller American flags that will
be given to the victims’ families in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Along with Administrator O’Keefe, NASA astronauts Frank Culbertson, Dominic
Gorie, Linda Godwin and Michael Massimino help present the flown items to New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor George Pataki, and
representatives from the New York Police Department, Fire Department and the New
York and New Jersey Port Authority.

“This precious flag symbolizes the sacrifice and courage of the thousands of News
Yorkers and Americans who perished that fateful day,” Governor Pataki said. “On
behalf of all New Yorkers, I am proud to welcome the flag back to the New York
City to honor the innocent men and women who were working in the towers on
September 11, and the countless heroes whose spirit and strength has helped carry
us through this horrific ordeal.”

Culbertson served as Expedition Three Commander on the International Space
Station and was the only American not on the planet at the time of the terrorist
attacks. He captured the first dramatic images from space of the fires at the
World Trade Center shortly before the buildings collapsed. Gorie was mission
commander of STS-108 and Godwin was a mission specialist on board Endeavour
during the December mission. Massimino has close ties to the New York Fire
Department and was mission specialist on board the Space Shuttle Columbia during
STS-109 in March.

“From space, the astronauts get a unique view of our home planet and the
destruction was clearly visible from orbit. The events of September 11 deeply
affected them, as they did the entire nation,” concluded Administrator O’Keefe.
“We hope this campaign is seen as a fitting tribute from America’s space program
as the courageous people of New York move forward.”

Additional information about the Space Shuttle and International Space Station
programs and the American Museum of Natural History is available on the Internet