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NASA Experts Finalists for Service to America Medal
05.04.11
 
President Barack Obama meets in the Oval Office with members of the NASA team and other Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue, October 28, 2010. From left, Dr. Michael Duncan, Dr. Albert Holland, Dr. James Polk and Dr. Clint Cragg, along with others who traveled to Chile to assist the once-trapped miners.President Barack Obama meets in the Oval Office with members of the NASA team and other Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue on October 28, 2010. From left, Dr. Michael Duncan, Dr. Albert Holland, Dr. James Polk and Dr. Clint Cragg, are pictured along with others who traveled to Chile to assist the once-trapped miners.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
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Dr Duncan at the mineDr. Duncan was the deputy chief medical officer at NASA's Johnson Space Center at the time of the rescue effort. He is shown here at the mine shaft in Chile. Credit: Michael Duncan

Michael Duncan and NASA team members who assisted a Chilean effort that rescued trapped miners have been selected as finalists for a Service to America Medal. The team spent three days at the rescue site in Copiapo, Chile, providing guidance and insight that aided the successful effort to extract 33 men trapped 2,300 feet below Earth's surface. Team members included Duncan and James D. Polk, both medical doctors; Albert W. Holland, a psychologist; and Clinton H. Cragg, an engineer.

Duncan and Cragg are attending a breakfast for finalists on Thursday, May 5, as part of Public Service Recognition Week. The award winners will be announced in fall 2011.

NASA responded to an August 2010 request from the Chilean government to provide technical advice to assist the trapped miners. The NASA team arrived in Chile on Aug. 31, 2010, to share knowledge gained from the agency’s experience in training and planning for emergencies in human spaceflight, and protection of humans in the hostile environment of space. Although the mine accident occurred in a different environment, human physiology and behavioral responses to emergencies are similar, so many of the things NASA learned and researched were applicable.

Duncan was the deputy chief medical officer at NASA's Johnson Space Center at the time of the rescue effort. He currently is assigned to 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.

The team is one of four finalists for the National Security and International Affairs Medal, one of nine award categories that celebrate America's civil servants. Finalists are selected from more than 400 nominations for their critical contributions. The Service to America Medals program recognizes the exceptional work of unsung heroes who are part of the federal workforce. The goal is to inspire future generations to consider public service careers.

Related Links
› NASA Space Life Sciences
› Information about the Chilean Assistance from NASA
› Service to America Medals Profile of Duncan and the Team's Work
› Service to America Medals Information