The haunting photos and video, shown in full for the first time today on MailOnline, were shot by American astronaut Frank Culbertson as he looked down helplessly on New York on September 11, 2001.
He said his first instinct was to grab a camera – and hours later he would discover a close friend, a pilot at the controls of one of the hijacked planes, was one of the dead.
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Emotional: The footage, to be aired on Channel 4, was taken from space by U.S. astronaut Frank Culbertson as he orbited helplessly above New York. He later learned a good friend was one of the pilots killed in the attack
Far-reaching: A plume of smoke can be seen streaming from the World Trade Center on 9/11 in this image taken by astronaut Frank Culbertson, who was in space
Ground level: This was the scene on the ground as New York’s emergency services battled fearlessly to save the thousands of people still trapped inside
The images emerged as part of research for a television series about astronauts and will be shown for the first time in the UK as part of Channel 4′s Live From Space season.
Culbertson made the recording as the huge plume of smoke from the towers drifted across the city, only learning a few hours afterwards that his friend, Chic Burlingame, had been one of the pilots killed that day when his plane was flown into the Pentagon.
He responded by playing the Taps bugle call – which signals the end of the day for US military personnel – on a trumpet in a poignant tribute to his friend.
In a public message to his countrymen, he wrote the following day: ‘It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point.
‘The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the Earth and watching life being destroyed by such wilful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.’
Tribute: Frank Culberton plays Taps on his bugle on September 16, 2001, to honor his friend Chic Burlingame who was killed in the attacks
Historic: Astronaut Frank Culbertson filmed the aftermath of the terror attack in New York while in space
Culbertson explained that upon learning of the attacks he rushed around the station until he found a window that would give him a view of New York and grabbed the nearest camera.
He said: ‘It’s difficult to describe how it feels to be the only American completely off the planet at a time such as this. The feeling that I should be there with all of you, dealing with this, helping in some way, is overwhelming.’
The channel’s Live From Space season next week will feature documentaries about astronauts, building up to a two-and-a-half-hour live broadcast from the ISS and Mission Control in Houston, Texas, which will feature a full 90-minute orbit of Earth.
Victim: Pilot Charles ‘Chic’ Burlingame was killed in the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon
Short clips from the film of the attacks on New York were released by Nasa to mark the tenth anniversary in 2011, but the film has not been seen in full with Culbertson’s commentary and bugle call.
Creative director of the Channel 4 project, Tom Brisley, said: ‘Not every frame has been seen before, so every frame that was shot on that day is in the show.’
Executive producer Sally Dixon said: ‘It’s the first time we have had it in that form with Frank talking us through it.
‘If that had been in a movie you’d have gone, “oh come on, that guy’s got a trumpet?”. But reality is stranger than fiction sometimes.’
It will feature in the documentary Astronauts: Houston We Have A Problem for which program-makers have been given access to Nasa footage of some of the difficulties in space over the years.
They include film of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who was close to drowning when his helmet filled with water during a space walk, causing colleagues to fear for his life.
During other filming for the documentary – to be screened on March 13 – there was a real-life emergency on the station when a cooling system failed, forcing the crew to make two space walks to fix it.
NASA astronaut relives moment he watched 9/11 from space
Documented: An image from the Landsat satellite shows smoke still rising at 11.30am on September 12
Space view: An image from a Nasa satellite also captured the plume of smoke coming from the World Trade Center
Dixon said: ‘Suddenly a valve went on a coolant pump outside and they had to shut down power to half the station to power down a lot of equipment, so we were there filming our general stuff and they let us in on meetings of all these various teams.
‘They work out how will they do the space walk, people are practicing in the big pool with a model of the space station underwater because it’s very like microgravity.
‘It was just an amazing coincidence that we happened to be filming – no space walks were filmed for Rick [Mastracchio], Koichi [Wakata] and Mike’s [Hopkins] mission. It was incredible to see the teamwork that went on to work out what needed to be done and how they would do it.
The live program, Live From Space: Lap Of the Planet, will be screened on March 16, and presented by Dermot O’Leary and veteran astronaut Mike Massimino, who helped fix the Hubble telescope.
The Live from Space Season airs on Channel 4 from Wednesday March 12 at 9pm. More information at channel4.com/space.
Source: Daily Mail