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NASA Space News

NASA Fires Astronaut 323

davidwr writes "In an unprecedented move for an unprecedented situation, NASA has fired now-former astronaut Lisa Nowack. She is facing charges of attempted kidnapping related to an incident earlier this year. Ms. Nowack is a Navy officer and remains so."
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NASA Fires Astronaut

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  • Unprecedented? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:53PM (#18269496) Homepage
    Okay, I guess technically they've never fired an astronaut before, so it is "unprecedented" in that sense.

    But it's not like it's unusual to fire someone who is incapable of doing the job you hired them to do.

    Sensationalism at its "finest".
  • by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <owen&smigelski,org> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:54PM (#18269504) Homepage Journal
    One question about this whole thing that has bothered me is that she wore diapers to obviate the need for bathroom breaks. She drove 900 miles really fast, which meant she also had to refuel. Assuming great mileage, a large fuel tank, and a speedy car, she had to stop at least twice to gas. I'm not sure how much time would've been saved by stopping off in the loo. I think it tends to show more of how batty she is- which is good for her defense. Has anyone seen how long the trip actually took for her to drive?
  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:57PM (#18269566) Homepage
    I'm sure many people have... including the mental health professionals responsible for certifying that the astronauts are maintaining the presence of mind and emotional stability necessary to perform what is a very demanding, stressful, and risky job.

    I'd imagine that it takes very little in the way of strange behavior to disqualify a person for astronaut duty, regardless of what their explanation is. Even if her behavior was totally justified and not in any way her fault, the fact that she ended up behaving this way probably means she's not good astronaut material anymore. Astronauts should generally not respond to environmental or emotional stress by flipping out and committing crimes.
  • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:00PM (#18269596) Journal
    Oefelein told investigators he and Nowak both served on the bicycling team at NASA and had been involved in a sexual relationship for some time. He said he met Shipman in November 2006 while he was involved in pre-launch training at Kennedy Space Center. In January 2007, Oefelein said, he told Nowak he wanted to date Shipman "exclusively."

    Even if Oefelein handled things poorly or strung her along a bit (I'm not asserting that he did this)her reaction still made her unfit to be an astronaut. She reacts unpredictably to emotional stress, who wants to fly with her?
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:00PM (#18269598)

    Wow. Now her life is completely destroyed. Way to go, guys. Presuming she doesn't go to jail or a mental institution, you couldn't have found somewhere for her to work at NASA, given how big NASA is? Or waited until she was proven guilty, at the least?

    Especially since it's your training program that caused the breakdown in the first place, most likely?

    Talk about getting tossed out an airlock. NASA could have taken the high road on this one, and it's pretty obvious they took the easiest-for-them road. Circle the wagons, protect the budget.

    Sends a real clear message to the other astronauts/candidates, though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:05PM (#18269644)
    You're assuming her bladder capacity was well correlated to her fuel tank capacity.

    There's also the possible issue of lying in wait for her victim at the airport. It'd be terribly embarrasing to drive 900 miles in a blind rage to attack somebody, only to miss your chance due to an ill time potty break.
  • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) < minus language> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:09PM (#18269714)

    One question about this whole thing that has bothered me is that she wore diapers to obviate the need for bathroom breaks.

    Although we can't be sure, I would guess that it was not to avoid wasting time, and was instead to avoid getting caught on camera. You can fill up your gas tank outside, but most gas stations these days have their WCs on the inside, and most of them have CCTV to take pretty pictures of you. If she was hoping to murder and dispose of her rival, she would absolutely not want any evidence that she had made a cross country trip around the time that the victim disappeared. Of course, most gas stations these days also have cameras watching the license plates of their customers to avoid drive-offs, but I guess she was improving her chances by not going inside.
  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:09PM (#18269730) Homepage
    So you're saying that NASA should keep someone totally unqualified for any kind of high-stress, high-risk work on the payroll?

    Besides, it's more like she's a Navy pilot seconded to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for space research projects. If she's no longer suited to work on such projects, the right thing to do is to take her off those projects and return her to her regular Navy pilot duties--or such of those duties as her parent organization finds her still fit to perform. It's not like NASA tossed her out on the street.

    Also, this is the first time an Astronaut has "snapped" like this. How do you know it's the training program, and not a personality quirk in the candidate? Astronauts are typically chosen from among a pool of people who have already proven their aptitude for high-stress, high-risk work. Most of the candidates eithe wash out or pass through the qualification tests. The ones that pass through almost never snap, but as manning increases, the occasional ringer is bound to slip through. The right thing to do is not to keep the ringer, but to wash them out as soon as you become aware of them.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:19PM (#18269866)
    How do you think astronauts handle descent in landing capsules, long spacewalks or other situation where one might need to pee? What's bizarre to us, might be routine for people who go on unusual missions.
  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:20PM (#18269872) Homepage
    "Has anyone tried listening to her side of the story?"

    has anyone tried to listen to it without laughing... thats the hard part.

    What I love about this story is she gets aaa wig, everything you need to kill and torture someone, drives forever to meet her... and the weird part is diapers that isnt weird for her or her job... like none of that other stuff bothers anyone.

    Clearly, we are desensitized to murder and all that... but adult diapers really gets us.
  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot@pi t a b r e d . d> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @08:55PM (#18270240) Homepage
    Except for the fact that speeding has nothing to do with cashiering, yet sanity has EVERYTHING to do with cramped quarters with other people for long periods of time.
  • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:06PM (#18270368)
    What about him? If what you quote is true, then he didn't just handle things poorly, he handled things unprofessionally. He gets involved with a married woman at work at then ditches her for another woman he meets at work? It is almost always a bad idea to get involved with people you need to have a working relationship with... to say nothing of people you might have to work with 100 miles above the earth.

    His career is probably shot at this point. They won't fire him- it would draw yet more unwanted attention to NASA, and he might make false accusations (or worse, true ones) about NASA's own failures (for instance, that NASA turned a blind eye to this kind of behavior). But NASA might issue a strong reprimand, and make it clear that they would do everything in their power to make his transition to a non-NASA career as quick and painless as possible. I doubt he will ever fly again- there would be too much negative publicity. If they ever put him on a shuttle, the mission would get more publicity from rude jokes by Leno and Letterman than any of the actual science would.

  • by MLease ( 652529 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:08PM (#18270398)
    That only applies to criminal trials (at least in theory; the principle does seem to be weakening these days). Cause for firing someone or for prevailing in a civil suit doesn't require that high a standard. What she did do, even if she hasn't formally been found guilty of the charges against her, constituted conduct unbecoming someone in her position. Dismissing her from the Navy might require a conviction or a court-martial, but they certainly have cause to kick her out of the astronaut corps.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:22PM (#18270580) Homepage
    Because any human with a heart can at least understand the jealous lover who decides to take out the competition even if we'd never actually do it. That's a story as ancient as mankind, something which outside of the immediacy is completely banal.

    The diapers are what make it weird.

    Of course the rest bothers lots of people, it just doesn't make you stop and go "huh?" like hearing she drove cross country wearing diapers does.

  • by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:24PM (#18270608) Journal just did.

  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:04PM (#18271032)

    What about him?

    I think he is done too. This will bring all the attention of NASA evaluators on him. Not to mention that them both being Navy officers renders their activities in direct violation of all the various rules of professional conduct which officers must adhere to. I am quite certain that adultery is frowned upon in those.

    So I would expect his/her court martials and/or dishonorable discharges to be just around the corner. It just so happens that her truly outre ways are hogging all the news at the moment. His moment in the spotlight is coming.

  • Honor, sanity. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:09PM (#18271092) Homepage Journal
    She is an Officer of the United States Navy. (And, yes, to people associated with the military, that means a hell of a lot.) When you're an officer, you get held to higher standards, because you hold in your hands the honor of the US military. It's well known and accepted that that includes your behavior off the clock.

    When you're assigned to prestigious duty in the name of the Unites States of America, you better damn well be spotless, because you're holding the honor of the country in your hands.

    And that's not even thinking about whether behaving poorly under emotional stress should disqualify you from things like spending six months in only a couple tens of meters of cubic space with other people. That kind of contact would drive normal people insane; Astronauts have to be more stable than a concrete slab.
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:22PM (#18271220) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure to want to hear about the benefits of driving in diapers.

    This part has been explained in the very first news article on the subject. You want to wear diapers, when you can not (or don't want to) be interrupted. Apparently, astronauts wear diapers at launch/re-entry. It is a good idea, because you may spend a while strapped to a chair.

    She wanted to get over 900 miles as quickly as possible — without stopping to pee — strapped to the driver seat. This part of her act is not at all crazy.

  • by natet ( 158905 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:39PM (#18271360)

    Yes, I agree. I would certainly like to know the perfectly rational reason for driving 900 miles in diapers, and then tracking down and pepper-spraying someone you have never met, in an airport parking lot.

    Too much has been made of the diaper thing. To us non-astronaut types, wearing the diapers is kind of crazy, but it is a trick astronauts use when they go on space walks and such when needing to use the bathroom is inconvenient if not impossible. That part isn't crazy IMHO. The rest of it? Yah, totally wacko. I was under the impression she knew the other person though. I could have been misinformed though.

  • by iamthird ( 998498 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:17PM (#18271738)
    Let's remember that Lisa Nowak is a human being, even though she acted abnormally. I am not defending her wrong actions, but I would just like to say: people, don't be too harsh on her. She has family, friends, and a future (however it may be) just like the rest of us.

    Imagine one of your friends or family member did something like she did. You can't really imagine it, right? That's what her friends and family now face, because she has done something so incredibly unbelievable.

    It's a great sadness and tragedy to her family and friends, NASA, the world space program, and most of all, Lisa Nowak herself.

    Let's hope she and NASA will learn from this lesson and wish that she will still have some hope for her future.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:28PM (#18271820) Journal
    That's not really relevant - it's supposedly a democracy after all.

    I'm just wondering about the sanity of those who voted him in the SECOND TIME AROUND.

    Even if he wasn't really voted in, and the voting machines were tampered with etc, the voters are responsible for allowing such voting machines to be used.
  • by that this is not und ( 1026860 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:17AM (#18272192)
    Spacewalks really aren't common enough to be considered routine, though.
  • by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:50AM (#18272406) Journal
    I've actually handled wreckage of the Challenger.

    Have you?

    I thought not.

    Trust me, it changes your perspective.
  • Why fire Novak? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by madbawa ( 929673 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:27AM (#18273034) Journal
    Its the guy (the capitain) who couldn't keep his dcik in his pants. He's the one who ought to be fired for playing with women's emotions. Actually, that'll leave very few male astronauts in NASA.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2007 @05:58AM (#18274010)
    He did absolutely nothing wrong. Being involved with 2 women at the same time isn't a crime and he did tell the crazy chick that he preferred being with the other woman.

    This was completely and totally on her. If someone breaks up with you, it doesn't give you the right to assault someone.
  • Non-stop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @08:18AM (#18274692) Homepage Journal
    Well, that is so you can drive non stop. Duh.

    Please tell us the car that she drove that actually got 900 miles to a tank of gasoline. We want to know about it!

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl