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US Astronaut Faces Attempted Murder Charge In Love Triangle Case

This 17 July 2006 file photo at left shows Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak of the US space shuttle Discovery during a press conference after Discovery's landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Nowak, pictured at right 05 February 2007 in a police booking photo obtained from the Orange County Jail in Florida, was arrested and denied bail 05 February 2007 after being charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston, Texas, to the Orlando International Airport in Florida to confront Colleen Shipman, who the astronaut believed was romantically involved with US Navy Commander William Oefelein, who was a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station in December 2006. Nowak followed Shipman to her car and pepper sprayed her. Police found a wig and a trench coat that they said Nowak used as a disguise, along with pepper spray, a BB gun and steel mallet in Nowak's car. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Randy Nieves-Ruiz
Miami (AFP) Feb 07, 2007
A US astronaut was charged Tuesday with attempted murder after being arrested for allegedly attacking and trying to kidnap a woman she believed was a rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot.

Lisa Nowak, 43, a US Navy captain and a married mother of three children, faces a maximum life prison sentence if convicted.

After a second hearing Tuesday, a Florida judge ordered Nowak released on a total 25,500-dollar bail and said she had to wear an electronic tracking device.

Earlier in the day, the court had granted Nowak a 15,500-dollar bail on attempted kidnapping and battery charges, but she was then kept in jail after Orlando police issued new charges.

"She was about to be released when the Orlando police department showed up with an additional charge of attempted first-degree murder," Orange County prisons spokesman Allen Moore told CNN.

Nowak was arrested Monday on allegations she attacked Colleen Shipman at Orlando International Airport. The two women were allegedly rivals for the affections of astronaut William Oefelein, 41, who flew a mission to the orbiting space station in December.

A police report said Nowak approached Shipman's car at Orlando International Airport and sprayed pepper spray into her rival's vehicle.

In the new charging affidavit, the state found probable cause that the NASA astronaut intended to murder Shipman as Nowak had with her a black duffle bag filled with weapons that appear "new and unused."

The bag contained a steel mallet, a buck knife and a pellet gun that was loaded with BB pellets and set to fire, the affidavit said.

The weapons, as well as the circumstances of the case, give "probable cause to believe that Mrs. Nowak intended to murder Ms. Shipman," the investigating officer said in the charging affidavit.

The court ordered Nowak, based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, avoid any contact with Shipman, a military engineer working at the Patrick Air Force Base near NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The court also ordered Nowak to wear a global positioning system on her ankle that would set off an alarm if she entered the county where Shipman works.

Nowak apparently said in her statement that she planned to "scare" Shipman into talking about her relationship with Oefelein, but had no intention of harming her.

She also told police that she wore an adult diaper so she could drive the 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from Texas to Florida without stopping.

She approached Shipman in her car in the airport car park and asked to use her cell phone. Shipman refused, but then "rolled her window down about two inches, so Mrs. Nowak could hear her ... Mrs. Nowak sprayed some type of chemical spray into the vehicle, at Ms. Shipman's face," the police report read.

Shipman, who told police the spray burned her eyes, sped off and called for help, the report said. Police arrived and arrested Nowak, who Shipman identified.

A navy officer since 1987, Nowak trained for two years as an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, from 1996.

She worked in Mission Control as prime communicator with orbiting crews and flew as mission specialist on the shuttle Discovery's July 4-17 mission to the International Space Station.

Nowak told police that she was "involved in a relationship" with Oefelein, which she categorized as "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to the affidavit.

Oefelein served as pilot on the Discovery's December 9-22, 2006 mission to the ISS.

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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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