Contact Us


All News Releases By Date


EPA, NASA Honor Shuttle Recovery Participants

Release Date: 6/6/2003
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

      Christie Whitman and two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees were given special recognition by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for their work to retrieve material from the space shuttle Columbia after its disastrous breakup in the skies over Texas and Louisiana February 1.  

      Whitman was recognized for her leadership in EPA's response efforts.  Jim Mullins and John Martin, members of EPA's Superfund emergency response program, were honored for their outstanding personal dedication and expertise in the recovery efforts.

      "The EPA was given the solemn honor of assisting in recovering debris from the shuttle.  The men and women who fulfilled that mission answered the call, leaving their homes and families to do work that was neither glamorous nor easy, but that was so important.  It was important to the families of those who were lost, important to the NASA family, and important to the future of human space travel.  This was a mission we wish had never been needed, but one to which we were proud to contribute," Whitman said.

      Mullins is a team leader in the Superfund program and was instrumental in coordinating EPA's equipment and personnel in the field.  Approximately 80 on-scene coordinators from around the country mobilized to east Texas within a week of the incident. The entire EPA team included approximately 1,900 total personnel, including about 650 field personnel.

      Martin is a 16-year veteran of EPA as an on-scene coordinator.  He was one of the first EPA responders to arrive at the recovery scene, and helped establish the recovery field office. Over the following weeks, Martin coordinated EPA's efforts with the rest of the recovery team. More than 25,000 workers from over 400 governmental bodies, volunteer agencies, private groups and contractors participated in the search effort.

      Whitman received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Mullins and Martin received NASA's Exceptional Achievement Medal. In addition, EPA has honored about 400 of its employees for their work in the recovery effort.

      EPA's role was to respond to reports of hazardous materials, both to clean up any contamination as needed, and to protect the public from exposure.  In responding to about 200 calls, EPA recovered 76 percent of the hazardous containers and 20 percent of the pyrotechnic devices from the shuttle.  

      More information on EPA's shuttle recovery effort is available at