Astronaut Involved In Love Triangle Fired

Astronaut Lisa M. Nowak, STS-121 mission specialist, dons a training version of the shuttle launch and entry suit, prior to an emergency egress training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, July 20, 2005. AP Photo/NASA

An astronaut charged with trying to kidnap a woman she allegedly believed was a romantic rival was fired by NASA on Wednesday, a month after she was arrested in Florida.

NASA officials said Lisa Nowak's dismissal did not reflect on the space agency's belief in her guilt or innocence. The agency said it lacked an administrative system to handle the allegations.

"Because Nowak is a naval officer on assignment to NASA, rather than a NASA civil servant, she is not subject to administrative action by NASA," agency officials said in a statement.

The dismissal is effective Wednesday, based on a mutual agreement between NASA and the U.S. Navy.

Nowak is the first astronaut NASA has ever publicly dismissed, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

She will receive her next assignment from the U.S. Navy, according to a NASA statement.

Nowak, a mother of three, is accused of confronting the woman at the Orlando airport after driving from Houston while wearing an astronaut diaper so that she would not have to stop.

She allegedly pepper-sprayed the woman through a partially lowered car window. In Nowak's vehicle, police found a BB gun, a new steel mallet, a knife and rubber tubing.

Nowak, 43, pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault. She was released on bail wearing a monitoring device on her ankle. Prosecutors declined to file an attempted murder charge recommended by police.

Documents released on Monday showed that Nowak's bizarre 969-mile road trip to confront her rival may have been sparked when she uncovered steamy e-mails sent to her boyfriend by the other woman.

Nowak had collected more than a dozen e-mails sent to her one-time boyfriend, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, including one he received during his shuttle mission, according to the documents, released late Monday by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office.

"Will have to control myself when I see you. First urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground and love the hell out of you," Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman wrote to Oefelein while he was aboard shuttle Discovery in December. "But honestly, love, I want you to totally and thoroughly enjoy your hero's homecoming."

The Orlando Sentinel reports Nowak apparently downloaded the messages from Oefelein's home computer.

A written arraignment has been scheduled for March 22, at which time pretrial and trial dates will be set.

Since her arrest, Nowak has told police that her relationship with Oefelein was more than a working relationship but less than a romantic one. But Oefelein, 41, told investigators they had been romantically involved since 2004. They broke up shortly after New Year's Day.

However, Oefelein met Shipman in November 2006 during a training exercise at Kennedy Space Center and they began dating shortly afterward, police said. He told police he had given Nowak a key to his Houston apartment as well as his password for access to his home computer.

He also told Shipman that Nowak sometimes used his computer, Shipman told police. Nowak also stored her bicycle at his apartment.

"I told him that it made me very uncomfortable and it made me want to pull away from this relationship 'cause it made me think that he didn't quite cut ties maybe," Shipman said in her statement.

A few days later, after a date, they were lying in bed and Oefelein called her "Lisa," she told police.

Nowak flew on Discovery last summer and won praise for operating the shuttle's robotic arm. NASA relieved her of all mission duties after her arrest and placed her on a 30-day leave.

  • Joel Roberts

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