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Trenchcoated astronaut on battery, kidnapping rap

Space shuttle Columbo?

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Updated A NASA astronaut has been arrested and charged with battery and attempted kidnapping. Mission specialist Lisa Nowak is alleged to have tried to kidnap Colleen Shipman, who she appears to have considered a rival for the affections of her fellow astronaut William Oefelein.

Nowak is reported to have driven 1,000 miles from Houston, Texas, to Florida's Orlando International Airport. According to the BBC, she wore a nappy to avoid having to make toilet stops.

Once at the airport, she disguised herself in a trench coat, wig, and glasses, and waited for Shipman to arrive on a flight from Houston.

(As one vulture points out: this is a rubbish disguise. You'd still easily be able to see the spacesuit's helmet, even under a wig.)

Nevertheless, according to Shipman's police report, Nowak followed Shipman as she travelled on an airport bus from the arrivals hall to her car. Shipman told police that when she was nearly at her car, she heard a woman running behind her. Alarmed, she hurried to her car, got in, and locked the doors.

Nowak then pounded on the car window asking for a ride, and then to use a cell phone. When Shipman cracked the window to tell her "No", Nowak sprayed something into the car, burning Shipman's eyes.

Quite understandably, Shipman drove off at this point and called the police.

Police said when she was arrested, a search of Nowak's car turned up pepper spray, a steel mallet, and a BB gun, as well as black gloves, a folding knife with a 4-inch blade, rubber tubing and rubbish sacks.

Nowak claims she only wanted to scare Shipman and confront her about her relationship with Oefelein.

Nowak last flew on the STS 121 Shuttle return to flight test mission in July last year. It was the second flight since the loss of the Columbia.

Oefelein, with whom Nowak says she has a "more than a working....but less than romantic" relationship, last flew on the STS-116 Discovery mission in December last year. The pair never flew a mission together. ®

Update:

NASA has issued the following statement abot the whole affair: "We are deeply saddened by this tragic event. The charges against Lisa Nowak are serious ones that must be decided by the judicial system. She is officially on 30-day leave and has been removed from flight status and all mission-related activities. We will continue to monitor developments in the case."

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