NASA has honored Morton Thiokol and eight employees for the Utah aerospace firm's efforts to get America back into the space business.

Carver Kennedy, vice president of space services at the Kennedy Space Center, and Allan McDonald, vice president of engineering at Morton Thiokol's Brigham City Operations, both received NASA Public Service Medals for their contributions to the engineering, design and development of the redesigned solid rocket boosters.Utah-built boosters lifted the shuttle Discovery into space and America back into the business of space exploration in September - the first U.S. flight since Challenger was destroyed in January 1986.

Joining Kennedy and McDonald in receiving NASA awards were: John Thirkill, space operations vice president and general manager, Richard Davis, space operations vice president and assistant general manager, and Joseph Pelham, former chief scientist.

The award is the highest honor NASA gives in recognition of non-governmental employees' contributions to the space agency's missions.

Thiokol and its employees were honored during ceremonies Monday at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The NASA exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal was presented to three engineers - Charles J. Brown, Stanley R. Graves and Scott R. Stein - which is given for unusually significant engineering contributions to aeronautical or space exploration goals.

The Morton Thiokol solid rocket booster project support team received the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Public Service Group Achievement Award.

The national space agency hailed the redesigned solid rocket boosters as the safest ever built or flown after the Discovery launch in September.