Astronaut Dedicates Flag Flown in Space to 9/11 Victims
STS-125 Mission Specialist Mike Massimino s helped by a suit technician to don a harness over his launch and entry suit before entering space shuttle Atlantis for a simulated launch countdown.
Credit: NASA/Amanda Diller.

NEW YORK ? An astronaut from New York returned home Thursday to dedicate an American flag flown on the space shuttle to the victims of Sept. 11.

NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, who has flown twice on the shuttle to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, presented the flag to the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum under construction at the ground zero site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The flag was flown on Massimino's STS-125 mission of the shuttle Atlantis in May 2009.

"We flew an American flag on our flight - it's pretty customary to do that," he said. "I'm a New Yorker? The idea I had was to give it to the city of New York to honor the Sept. 11 victims."

Massimino said his six crewmates readily agreed. The astronaut, who now lives in Houston near NASA?s Johnson Space Center, spoke at an event in New York City to preview preliminary footage from the Hubble 3D IMAX film, set to premiere March 19, which will chronicle their trip to the space telescope last year.

The newly-dedicated flag is on temporary display at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site. Plans call for the museum to be completed by Sept. 11, 2011.

"This morning I got to return it down to the World Trade Center site," Massimino said. "As of today, that's on display down there."

This flag is the second that Massimino has donated in honor of Sept. 11. In August 2009 he presented another American flag flown to Hubble in honor of firefighters who died that day, and their families. The astronaut's late father was a New York Fire Department fire inspector.

Massimino regularly posts Twitter updates about his life as an astronaut under the name Astro_Mike. He is a veteran of four spacewalks, all of them to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope.

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