updated 9/14/2005 4:02:06 PM ET 2005-09-14T20:02:06

The ex-Marine who directed NASA's shuttle program following the Columbia disaster is returning to Mississippi as director of Stennis Space Center, the space agency said Tuesday.

Bill Parsons already is at Stennis, coordinating NASA's hurricane-recovery efforts. Katrina damaged both Stennis, the testing site for shuttle main engines near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the manufacturing plant for shuttle fuel tanks. Hundreds of workers were left without homes.

Parsons was serving as Stennis' director in his home state when Columbia broke apart during re-entry in February 2003. He took over the decimated shuttle program three months later.

At Stennis, he replaces retired Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Donaldson, who is on special assignment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the hurricane.

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale is now the acting chief.

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