Eleven years ago today, the 9/11 attacks wrought immense destruction on a human, and local scale in New York, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa, and with American and allied troops still very much at war in Afghanistan, it marks an event which continues to reverberate through history.
On 9/11, exactly one American, NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson was off planet Earth, aboard ISS as a member of Expedition 3, which photographed the scene over New York from 250 miles overhead.
Among the many lessons which may be drawn from that terrible day, is the unavoidable vulnerability of a free and open society to those who seek do it harm. Although the weapon of choice for 9/11 was the commercial airliner, the future may hold threats of different sort altogether. Sometimes, advances in science and technology come at the price of a new potential for turning our tools against us.
While al-Qaeda has been severely damaged and put on the defensive around the world, terrorism as a method of asymmetrical warfare appears to a regrettable fact of life far in to the future. As such the threat of even greater casualties possibly perpetrated on even a global scale remains as well. In the long run, one of the best defenses against whoever may wish to damage the fabric of society, as well as against natural calamity, is the rapid spread of free, open and tolerant human communities throughout the solar system.