Shuttle Astronaut Arrested and Fired... Feb 5, 2007 21:28:12 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Feb 5, 2007 21:28:12 GMT -6
Space shuttle astronaut arrested at OIA on attempted kidnapping, battery charges
A NASA astronaut is being held without bail after police say she attacked her rival for another astronaut's attention at Orlando International Airport Monday.
Lisa Marie Nowak drove more than 12 hours from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing the astronaut Nowak pined for, according to Orlando police.
Nowak -- who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer -- was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, and latex gloves in her car, reports show. They also found diapers, which Nowak said she used so she wouldn't have to stop on the 1,000-mile drive. Reports show that after U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman's flight arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport's Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman's car and then doused her with pepper spray.
Nowak, 43, is charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted vehicle burglary with battery and destruction of evidence. Police considered her such a danger that they requested she be held without bail in the Orange County Jail, reports show.
A married mother of three, Nowak told police that she was "involved in a relationship with," Bill Oefelein, another NASA astronaut, which she categorized as "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to the charging affidavit.
Oefelein, who piloted the most recent shuttle Discovery flight in December, could not be reached Monday night at home in Houston.
She found out Oefelein was involved with Shipman and planned a trip to Orlando to talk to Shipman about their relationships with Oefelein, reports show. She also told police the BB gun "was going to be used to entice Ms. Shipman to talk with her."
Shipman, an engineer assigned to the 45th Launch Support Squadron at Patrick Air Force base near the Kennedy Space Center, told police she was flying home from Houston. She could not be reached for comment Monday night at her home near Port Canaveral.
Shipman told police that after waiting two hours to get her luggage, she noticed a woman in a trench coat waiting near the airport taxi stand. When Shipman boarded a shuttle bus to long-term parking, the woman followed, according to police.
When Shipman got into her car in the Blue lot on Cargo Road, reports show, she heard "running footsteps" coming toward her. Nowak tried to open the car door, then claimed she needed a ride, or use of a cell phone.
"No. If you need help, I'll send someone to help you," Shipman responded, reports show.
Nowak claimed she could not hear and started to cry.
"Ms. Shipman rolled her window down about 2 inches, so Mrs. Nowak could hear her... Mrs. Nowak sprayed some type of chemical spray into the vehicle, at Ms. Shipman's face," a detective wrote.
Shipman sped away to the parking lot's toll booth, where she asked a parking employee to call police.
The first officer to reach the Blue lot, saw the suspect drop something black into a trash can at one of the parking shuttle stops. Within minutes, Shipman identified Nowak as her attacker.
A steel mallet, several feet of rubber tubing and hand-written directions to Shipman's home were recovered from Nowak's car, which was parked at a nearby LaQuinta Inn, reports show.
Picked up shortly before 4 a.m., Nowak was questioned until about 5 p.m. when police took her to the county jail.
Her arrest may be the first-ever felony charges filed on an active-duty astronaut, according to the space agency.
"Her status as an astronaut with NASA is currently unchanged. I cannot speculate on what might happen beyond that," said James Hartsfield, a NASA spokesman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Nowak and Oefelein work.
Take some Tang and go lie down.