Jawdropping NASA news today. Mission Specialist Capt. Lisa Nowak (Navy! Graduated from the Academy!), who’s been to space and to the International Space Station, drove through from Houston to Orlando just so she could (allegedly) try to kidnap and beat up the apparent girlfriend, Colleen Shipman, of the astronaut she likes, Cmdr. William Oefelein. Oh, and Nowak was married with three kids.
Listen to an interview with her at AOL.
As you might expect, her official bio is full of achievement. The Academy, of course, with a bachelor’s as an aerospace engineer; Master’s in aeronautical engineering, and some kind of additional Navy post-grad degree in it, too. Piloting. Electronic Warfare School. She was stationed at Point Mugu, Monterey (the Navy grad school thing), and then at Pax River as an engineer. She went to test pilot school, did test pilot stuff, then went to Naval Air Systems Command and did acquisition stuff. Finally, she got called to NASA, something she’d been working on all along. (She even did a TDA at NASA right after graduation, which must have fed the fire.) She went to space on STS-121 in July 2006.
She has 1500 hours in all sorts of aircraft.
And now this. Obviously, we all suffer from original sin and we all have problems with romance. Obviously, Houston is a competitive and stressful environment, and crazy stuff will occasionally happen that isn’t burned off by parties, fast cars, and beer. Still, sheesh! (And surely she could have thought of a better plan. She’s an engineer! Although I suppose pepper spray and handcuffs provide more of the hands-on satisfaction of revenge.) Also, she looks like crud in her photo — extremely thin and worn, and very unlike her shuttle photos. If she was obsessing over this guy and losing weight, why the heck didn’t any of her fellow astronauts or NASA coworkers notice? Where were the flight doctor shrinks? (Paging Dr. Sanity… well, not really. Since she’s ex-NASA, this counts as family dirty laundry for her. I would expect her to say little about this, or only in the most general way.) Heck, where were her husband and (presumably grown) kids?
It’ll be interesting to see if she gets prosecuted under the UCMJ or in civilian court. The military courts will undoubtedly want to throw the book at her for stuff that’s not even a crime in civilian court. (Adultery comes to mind, though of course there’s no evidence Oefelein actually did anything of that sort with her.) They weren’t in each other’s chain of command or anything, and they weren’t on each other’s mission teams.
Oefelein is two years her junior, a Navy commander with a Master’s. Naval aviator, went to TOPGUN, served with his squadron on the Nimitz, etc, etc. He went to test pilot school at Pax River in 1995 (while Nowak was still at Pax — did they know each other?), test piloted for two years, then went back to the school at Pax River as an instructor. Next year, he got transferred to Oceana, and from there he went to NASA. (Which, again, is something he must have been working toward and filling out forms for, during most of his career.) Oefelein has logged over 3000 hours and over 200 carrier landings. (He also has two kids, which argues an ex-wife who doesn’t appear on his bio.)
He went to space on STS-116, December 9-22, 2006. Yep, all this was boiling up right after his mission, which means it was probably on the boil before that. Sure, astronauts, you can all feel safe knowing that your comrades are occasionally full of violent jealousy while you’re up there. All happy friends together. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
*sarcasm* But intelligent, mature people are never jealous or angry in their relationships, so people can sleep around as much as they want, and open relationships and polygamy are a great idea. Nobody we know ever is driven to this sort of behavior.