NASA recognized its Katrina heroes Friday morning. The space agency's highest achievement medals were handed out to Stennis Space Center employees who risked their lives to protect the Space Shuttle main engine test stands during the height of the storm.
"The country is indebted to your bravery, hard work and dedication in the face of severe distress," NASA's Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said.
Dale traveled from Washington to Hancock County to recognize and thank Stennis employees for their work during and after the storm.
"We bestow today some of NASA's highest commendations for outstanding public service, outstanding leadership, exceptional achievement and group achievement awards," Dale said.
"This award goes to Dave Geiger for protecting Stennis equipment and hardware."
Geiger and several others were recognized for protecting the Stennis' main interests, the $1.5 billion rocket engine test stands.
"What your team accomplished was nothing less then saving America's Space Program, quite literally, from being grounded for years," Dale told a packed crowd.
Another accomplishment, caring for the 3700 people who sought shelter at Stennis.
Stennis Director Dr. Richard Gilbrech told the crowd, "We had the responsibility to take care of those people, to provide the shelter and their meals."
"They fed all of these people. Normally the cafeteria has 175 breakfasts a day and 600 lunches, and they were able to rev up to 3,000 meals three times a day," Dale said.
Stennis worker Ron Magee added, "They all worked like champions to restore the services here at the center. We were able to have electricity restored within a couple of weeks. We had experts here that were able to commandeer a data line to Marshall Space Flight Center and establish communications out of this region to the rest of the country. It was nothing but heroic, what we saw in our employees."
More than 200 Stennis workers were honored for going above and beyond the call of duty -everyone from the custodians to security personnel.