ORLANDO, Fla. – It seems almost out of this world, but a lovesick NASA astronaut allegedly attacked a fellow female space traveler over the attention of another male astronaut.
Astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak
Now, Lisa Marie Nowak, a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer, will be charged with attempted murder in addition to attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted vehicle burglary with battery and destruction of evidence.
Orlando police are in the process of adding the more serious charge that Nowak, 43, tried to kill the woman, according to Orange County jail spokesman Allen Moore.
Nowak was reportedly released after posting $25,000 bail late this afternoon.
Early yesterday, Nowak reportedly was wearing a trench coat and wig as she carried a knife, brand new steel mallet, BB pistol, rubber tubing, plastic bags, black gloves and $600 in cash at Orlando International Airport.
She drove from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing Bill Oefelein, the astronaut Nowak had feelings for.
Police reports indicate that once Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman arrived, Nowak followed her to long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman’s car and doused her with pepper spray.
Police said due to the amount of weapons and disguises found, they consider her a real threat to the victim. They originally requested she be held without bail in the Orange County Jail.
Nowak told police that she was “involved in a relationship with” Oefelein, calling it “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Astronaut Bill Oefelein
Nowak told police she had discovered Oefelein was involved with Shipman, so she planned a trip to Orlando to talk to Shipman about their relationships with Oefelein. She explained the BB gun “was going to be used to entice Ms. Shipman to talk with her,” the affidavit said. She did not provide an explanation for the plastic bags or the gloves.
Shipman told authorities she noticed a woman in a trench coat at the airport had followed her from the taxi stand, onto the bus, and into the parking lot. She says as she entered her car, 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. When Shipman rolled down her window a couple of inches, Nowak “sprayed some type of chemical spray into the vehicle,” reports show.
Shipman was able to drive away with her eyes stinging and notified authorities at a manned parking booth.
Along with the weapons and other items in Nowak’s car, police found e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, Mapquest directions from Houston to the Orlando airport, and diapers, which Nowak said she used so she wouldn’t have to stop on the drive.
Astronaut Lisa Nowak’s mugshot
A NASA spokesman indicated the arrest is the first-ever on felony charges for an active-duty astronaut.
“Her status as an astronaut with NASA is currently unchanged. I cannot speculate on what might happen beyond that,” James Hartsfield, a NASA spokesman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Nowak and Oefelein work, told the Sentinel.
Nowak graduated in 1985 graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis with a degree in aerospace engineering, She is a former test pilot who has flown more than 1,500 hours in at least 30 types of aircraft. She joined NASA in 1996, and three members of her astronaut class died when Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003 during its return to Earth.
According to her NASA biography, Nowak is married and a mother of three children, with interests such as running, playing the piano and collecting African violets.