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Spaced Out

This next story has it all – astronauts, attempted kidnapping and murder, jealousy….and diapers.

NASA astronaut accused of trying to kidnap a romantic rival for a space shuttle pilot’s affections will remain in jail because authorities planned to charge her with attempted first-degree murder, an official said Tuesday.

Orlando police were in the process of adding the new charge against Lisa Marie Nowak, 43, spokeswoman Sgt. Barb Jones said in a statement. She didn’t provide further details.

Nowak, a Navy captain and married mother of three, had already been charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery, and a judge had said Tuesday morning that she could be freed on $15,500 bail provided she stay away from the other woman and wear a monitoring device.

She was about to be released when she was notified that she wouldn’t be going anywhere, Orange County jail spokesman Allen Moore said.

Chief astronaut Steve Lindsey, who flew with Nowak to the international space station last July aboard space shuttle Discovery, and fellow astronaut Chris Ferguson attended the hearing.

“Our primary concern is her health and well-being and that she get through this,” Lindsey told reporters afterward. “Her status (with the astronaut corps) has not changed.”

Ferguson said he was “perplexed” by Nowak’s alleged actions.

Police said Nowak drove 900 miles, donned a disguise and was armed with a BB gun and pepper spray when she confronted a woman she believed was a competitor for the affections of Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, an unmarried fellow astronaut.

Oefelein, 41, piloted the space shuttle Discovery in December. He and Nowak trained together but never flew a mission together.

Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Inside Nowak’s vehicle, which was parked at a nearby motel, authorities found a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and e-mails between Colleen Shipman and Oefelein.

They also found a letter “that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein,” an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman’s home address and hand written directions to an address, the arrest affidavit said.

Police said Nowak told them that she only wanted to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein and didn’t want to harm her physically.

“If you were just going to talk to someone, I don’t know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray,” said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. “It’s just really a very sad case.”

According to authorities, Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Oefelein. When Nowak found out Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her early Monday, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers in the car so she wouldn’t have to stop to go to the bathroom, authorities said. Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, she waited for Shipman’s plane to land and then boarded the same airport shuttle bus Shipman took to get to her car, police said. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying, the statement said. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman’s car, the affidavit said. Shipman drove to the parking lot booth and police were called.

An officer reported following Nowak and watching her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. Police also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.

Oefelein and Shipman, who the Houston Chronicle said worked at Patrick Air Force Base near the Kennedy Space Center, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield 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.

Houston, boy does she have a problem.

Update: Meanwhile, another female astronaut has made the news for the right reasons.

U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams has now spent more time in space than any other woman, setting the record on Sunday as she and a crew mate upgraded the international space station’s cooling system.

Williams broke the previous female spacewalking record of more than 21 hours when she and Michael Lopez-Alegria completed the second of what could be a precedent-setting three spacewalks in nine days.

The new record is 22 hours and 27 minutes.

So there you have it, folks: the record for female astronaut spacewalking broken, and the record for female astronaut prison time in jeopardy.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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