October 11, 2001
— In a unique extension of a tradition that dates back to the beginning of human space flight, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin today announced that the next mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour will honor the victims of last month's terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Administrator Goldin said thousands of American flags will be carried into space and will be distributed to the victims' families and survivors of the September attacks.
"The 'Flags for Heroes and Families' campaign is a way for us to honor and show our support for the thousands of brave men and women who have selflessly contributed to the relief and recovery efforts," said Administrator Goldin. "The American flags are a patriotic symbol of our strength and solidarity, and our Nation's resolve to prevail."
As part of this effort, nearly 6,000 American flags will be carried into orbit aboard Endeavour. The mission, known as STS-108, is currently scheduled for liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 29.
"NASA wanted to come up with an appropriate tribute to the people who lost their lives in the tragic events of September 11," added Goldin. "America's space program has a long history of carrying items into space to commemorate historic events, acts of courage and dramatic achievements. 'Flags for Heroes and Families' is a natural extension of this ongoing outreach project."
The legacy of flying American flags to space started in 1961 with the flight of the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard. Students from Cocoa Beach Elementary School in Florida purchased a flag from a local department store, which was later was rolled up and placed between cables behind Shepard's head inside his Freedom 7 spacecraft.
The flags carried into orbit as part of this new effort will be returned to Earth at the end of STS-108, mounted on specially designed memorial certificates, and presented to the survivors and families of the victims in New York and the Pentagon, and to the families of the heroes killed on United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Wednesday afternoon, Goldin presented the city of New York and its mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, with an American flag carried into space on a previous space shuttle flight. The Administrator announced plans to present new flags to each New York fire house and police precinct that has played a role in the rescue and recovery efforts.
"We feel 'Flags for Heroes and Families' is a fitting tribute from our Nation's space program to honor those affected by this American tragedy," concluded Goldin.
"The entire NASA family has come together with a historic display of unity on a project designed to comfort of all who have been touched by these horrific events."
STS-108 will be the 12th space shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Endeavour will deliver the Expedition 4 crew — Commander Yuri Onufrienko of Rosaviakosmos and American flight engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch — and return the Expedition 3 crew. Dom Gorie will command STS-108 with Mark Kelly as pilot. Astronauts Linda Godwin and Dan Tani are mission specialists for this flight.