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NASA To Review Screening Process Amid Love-Triangle Case

Lisa Nowak flew on a Shuttle Discovery mission in July 2006. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 07, 2007
NASA officials on Wednesday said they were to launch a review of psychological screening procedures for astronauts in the wake of a bizarre love-triangle case. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was to "initiate a review of existing psychological screening for admittance into the astronaut corps," NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale told a news conference at the space agency's headquarters in Washington.

NASA has been left reeling since 43-year-old astronaut Lisa Nowak was charged on Tuesday with the attempted murder and kidnapping of a woman she believed to be competing for the attentions of a space shuttle pilot.

Dale also said that NASA would conduct "a review of the nature and extent to which we do ongoing psychological assessments during an astronaut's career at NASA."

Nowak flew home to Houston, Texas, on Wednesday after being released on 25,500 dollar bail by a judge in Orlando, Florida, where she was arrested on Monday after allegedly attacking another NASA employee, Colleen Shipman.

Nowak, who flew on a Shuttle Discovery mission in July, allegedly thought Shipman was a rival for the affections of 41-year-old space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.

The case has captured headlines around the world, but NASA officials were quick to voice their support and sympathy for all those involved, including Nowak whose work at NASA was decribed as "excellent."

"This was a tragic event, impacting many lives along the way. And I think we need to deal with that with empathy and a certain level of compassion," Dale told the news conference.

But she added: "In terms of long-term ramifications, I don't necessarily see it at this point. This is a very unique situation that we're facing."

Dale confirmed that Nowak, who is married with three children, had been taken off flight status and was now on a 30-day leave. She had been scheduled for the upcoming shuttle mission, in March.

The NASA administrator said that astronauts, in addition to regular health checkups throughout their time of service to NASA, receive "extensive" medical examinations prior to each flight.

Although those examinations do not include a separate component on psychological assessment, NASA health care providers "look for any potential issues or problems," she said.

Astronauts scheduled for long duration flights, such as an extended mission on the International Space Station, must undergo extensive psychological examinations, she added.

Dale said NASA administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday had ordered the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Mike Coats, to conduct an internal review of psychological screening.

Griffin on Wednesday asked NASA's chief medical officer Rich Williams to review procedures to determine whether changes should be made "to ensure our astronauts have the level of psychological and medical care and attention they need," she said.

Dale refused to discuss "confidential personnel matters" and said NASA could not answer questions linked to the ongoing legal case.

"This is a very difficult time for many people, and it is a very tragic event," she said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Space Commercialization Contracts Signed
Washington (UPI) Feb 01, 2007
NASA says it has signed a space commercialization contract with PlanetSpace Inc. of Chicago and the Transformational Space Corp. of Reston, Va. NASA said the agreements signed Wednesday are designed to facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit as capabilities are developed to transport goods and people to orbital destinations.







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