Veterans Day in space: Space Station astronauts pay tribute to a fallen hero

Veterans Day: On board the International Space Station, a pair of US astronauts salute a Medal of Honor recipient. The astronauts, both veterans themselves, take time on Veterans Day to remember those who have and are serving in the US military.

By , SPACE.com Managing Editor

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    Parts of Europe and Africa are very easily recognizable in this night time image shot by one of the Expedition 25 crew members aboard the International Space Station flying 220 miles above Earth. Two US ISS astronauts paid tribute to all US military veterans on Veterans Day Thursday.
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While Americans remember the sacrifices of U.S. service members this Veterans Day, astronauts on the International Space Station are doing the same while honoring one fallen soldier with the ultimate high-flying salute.

NASA astronauts Douglas Wheelock and flight engineer Scott Kelly have beamed a message from the International Space Station to honor Veterans Day in the United States.

Both men are members of the U.S. military - Wheelock is an Army colonel while Kelly is a captain in the Navy - and are carrying with them a Congressional Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to Army Sgt. Lester R. Stone Jr., who was killed in action in March 1969 during the Vietnam War. [7 Health Problems Facing Veterans]

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IN PICTURES: Veterans Day 2010

"We are carrying it as a tribute to all of those who have served and all of those who love freedom," Wheelock said in a video message. "We wanted to say a huge thank you to our veterans from outer space, from the crew of the International Space Station."

Wheelock has lived aboard the space station in June and is due to return to Earth later this month. Wheelock and Stone were both born in Binghamton, N.Y., and the astronaut plans to return Stone's Medal of Honor to his mother, Doris Stone, after completing his space mission.

"We wanted to send a huge thank you to our veterans of all services around the globe," Wheelock said. "We wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your sacrifice and your years of service for both your countrymen, your families and for people that you'll never even have a chance to meet."

When Wheelock returns to Earth, Kelly will take command of the space station. He arrived at the orbiting lab in October and is flying his own 5 1/2-month mission.

"We make a lot of sacrifices living onboard the International Space Station for months on end," Kelly said in the Veterans Day message. "But those sacrifices pale in comparison to the sacrifices men and women around the globe from all of our armed services have made in this last ten years specifically, but even more so during the entire history of our country."

Wheelock and Kelly are two of six crewmembers currently living aboard the International Space Station. The orbiting laboratory is home to three Americans and three Russians.

Wheelock will return to Earth on Nov. 29 with two crewmates, NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. Kelly and his crew will remain aboard and expect to be joined by three new crewmates in mid-December.

IN PICTURES: Veterans Day 2010

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