WASHINGTON -- The NASA team, who provided medical, survival and engineering expertise to help the miners trapped underground in Chile last year, received the National Security and International Affairs Medal from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.
The team -- led by Michael Duncan, former deputy chief medical officer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston -- was recognized at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or Sammies, gala in Washington on Thursday.
"We are very proud of the NASA team for its contribution that earned this prestigious award," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "The help provided to the Chilean government is a testament to the research and technology development we do at NASA. This was a practical example of how science and engineering for the space program has direct benefits to people on Earth."
After the Chilean government requested technical advice in August 2010, the NASA team spent three days at the rescue site in Copiapo, Chile. Duncan was joined by J.D. Polk, also a medical doctor, Albert Holland, and Clinton Cragg. Duncan works in the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Polk is the chief of the Space Medicine Division at Johnson.
Holland is a senior operational psychologist with the NASA Behavioral Health and Performance Group at Johnson. Cragg is a principal engineer in the NASA Engineering and Safety Center located at the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
More than 400 nominations were submitted for the 2011 medals. A committee of leaders in government, academia, the private sector, media and philanthropy selected the winners. The gala was hosted by Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and moderator of "Face the Nation."