NASA Fires Arrested Astronaut Capt. Lisa M. Nowak
By CARMEN GENTILE
Published: March 8, 2007
MIAMI, March 7 — Capt. Lisa M. Nowak, accused last month of attacking a
romantic rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut, was fired from NASA
on Wednesday, agency officials said.
According to a NASA statement. Captain Nowak was dismissed because the
agency “lacks the administrative means to deal appropriately with the
criminal charges” against her.
Were she a civil servant, NASA would have had the choice of placing Captain
Nowak on administrative leave without pay or indefinite suspension until the
charges are resolved, a NASA spokesman said. But because she was an officer,
those options were not available.
Instead, Captain Nowak will return to the Navy.
James Hartsfield, a NASA spokesman, said the termination of Captain Nowak,
who has been charged with attempted kidnapping, “does not reflect any
position by NASA” on the criminal case against her.
Mr. Hartsfield added that he believed it was the first time NASA had asked
the military to take back an astronaut. It is also the first time an
active-duty astronaut stands accused of committing a felony.
Captain Nowak, a Navy veteran who flew aboard the space shuttle last year,
drove more than 900 miles on Feb. 5 wearing a diaper to avoid having to stop
to use the bathroom and confronted Capt. Colleen Shipman of the Air Force in
a parking lot at Orlando International Airport, attacking her with pepper
spray, officials say.
On her cross-country trip, she carried a compressed-air pistol, rubber
tubing, a knife and a steel mallet. Captain Nowak had learned that Captain
Shipman was romantically involved with Cmdr. William A. Oefelein, a shuttle
pilot with whom Captain Nowak also had a relationship.
A Navy spokeswoman, Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, said Wednesday that Captain Nowak
had orders to report on March 21 to work as a staff member for the chief of
naval air training in Corpus Christi, Tex.
Captain Nowak is currently on leave from the Navy and living in Houston. She
has been released from jail pending trial, though she must wear an
electronic monitoring device.
NASA’s dismissal of her came as no surprise to her or her lawyer, Donald
Lykkebak, said a spokeswoman for Mr. Lykkebak.
The Navy has decided to reserve judgment against Captain Nowak pending
the outcome of her case.
John Schwartz contributed reporting.