Seeing as how people keep hitting my site for information on Lisa Nowak, I figure I might as well provide any updates that have happened since early this morning. For the uninitiated, Nowak is now what figures to be a former NASA astronaut and currently a Navy Captain that was arrested within the past 36 hours for attempting to kidnap another woman.
Nowak believed that this other woman, Colleen Shipman, was making moves on her own love interest and fellow astronaut and Navy Commander William Oefelein. Though the papers have reported that their relationship was more than friends, it also wasn't a whole heck of a lot more than that, at least not as far as Oefelein was concerned.
Nowak, despite being married with children, allowed her obsession to drive her -- quite literally -- 900 miles across the country nonstop, armed with a pellet gun, wig, trench coat, mace, a metal mallet (hammer), a knife, rubber tubing, and other items including emails between the two women. When Nowak confronted Shipman, Nowak assaulted Shipman with the mace. Shipman who was parked in an airport drove a short distance and sought help.
The initial charges included attempted kidnapping and some sort of vehicular battery, and later attempted murder charges were filed.
"In the imaginations of the police officers, they extend these facts out into areas where the facts can't be supported," Lykkebak said.
Indeed, I find it hard to believe that prosecutors can sustain a charge of attempted murder when all Nowak allegedly did was mace the other woman, regardless of what she had in her car at the time. Mental instability seems like a pretty good defense here, considering that she separated from her husband of 19 years recently, and seems utterly obsessed with Commander Oefelein.
NASA put Nowak on a 30-day leave and removed her from mission duties. Agency spokesman John Ira Petty at Johnson Space Center in Houston said he was concerned about the people involved and their families. But, he added, "We try not to concern ourselves with our employees' personal lives."
She's done, and everyone knows it. What will become of her active military career isn't even mentioned, but I don't see any promotions in her future with things like this happening. NASA is very careful about the people they let into space, and it is exactly this kind of history that will remove you from any kind of consideration for shuttle flights.
Despite the authorities belief that murder was imminent, the judge allowed Nowak to be released on bail, so long as she wore an electronic monitoring device and stayed clear of Shipman.
Nowak was amongst some of the first people to return to space after the Columbia disaster, and I vaguely recall writing about her mission.
In an in-flight news conference aboard Discovery last summer, she talked about waiting nearly 10 years for her first space flight. "It's been a long wait, but it's worth the wait," she said.
This part is critical and has been mentioned before.
At least one retired astronaut, Jerry Linenger, said the space agency should review its psychological screening process. With NASA talking about a 2 1/2-year trip to Mars, it would be dangerous for someone to "snap like this" during the mission, he said.
I don't see anything extraordinary about all of this, these kinds of domestic disputes happen all the time all over the world. It all boils down to the fact that no person is immune to the effects of strong emotions and their ability to wipe out rational thought. Losing your spouse after almost 20 years has to be hard enough, and I can certainly understand how someone would be warped like this by stress.
The fact is no amount of psychological screening is going to change our nature. If you lock a number of men and women into a small space they cannot escape from for several years, no matter how badly they want to be there or how badly they want to get where they are going, there will be problems. People will get sick of each other and fight, and others will become attracted and (hysterically) mate on the trip. Perhaps it's long past time for NASA to begin certifying condoms for zero-g usage.
Being stressed and in love isn't an excuse for that kind of behavior, of course, but it's just one of those things that is bound to happen. You can fill up on the rest here. This is recent as of midnight, Feb 05 2007, enjoy the craziness.