Two astronauts and an American dream

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Lisa Nowak
Lisa Nowak

Shuttle mission specialist charged with attempted kidnapping

ORLANDO: An astronaut drove 1,500 km and donned a wig and trench coat to confront a woman she believed was her rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot. She was arrested on Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

U.S. Navy Captain Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the International Space Station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

The police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport wearing diapers so she would not have to stop to relieve herself on the way to confront Colleen Shipman. Nowak believed Ms. Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Commander William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, the police said.

Nowak told the police that her relationship with Cmdr. Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to an arrest affidavit. The police officers recovered a love letter to Cmdr. Oefelein in her car.

A NASA spokesman in Houston said that, as of Monday, Nowak's status with the astronaut corps remained unchanged. "What will happen beyond that, I will not speculate," he said, and added that he could not recall the last time an astronaut was arrested. It was clarified that there were no rules against fraternising among astronauts.

When she found out that Ms. Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Dressed in a disguise, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Ms. Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Ms. Shipman told the police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Ms. Shipman refused, but rolled down the car window a few centimetres when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Ms. Shipman's car.

Ms. Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called. During a check of the parking lot, an officer watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and air rifle. They also found a steel mallet, a 10-cm folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying . AP

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