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What gives an astronaut the steely nerve and heroic confidence to ride on a burning canister of rocket-fuel beyond our earthly confines and into the great unknown?

According to Aviation Week, the same thing that gives anyone else courage; booze.

The publication claims NASA is set to release a study on astronaut health indicating that on at least two occasions, astronauts were allowed to fly while intoxicated to the point where flight surgeons considered them avrisk.

AW claims the investigative panel also reports "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch — within the 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule the space agency requires of its crew members.

In February, NASA requested an independent external committee to conduct a review of health services available to astronauts. Concurrently, the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston began an internal assessment of behavioral medicine practices for astronauts.

A NASA press conference is set for tomorrow to release the findings of the two reviews.

The committees were formed in a response to the arrest of former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who was sent through the media wringer after her arrest for attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary with assault after an altercation with the girlfriend of another former astronaut.

However, the findings reportedly do not deal directly with Nowak nor mention any astronauts by name.

NASA has not returned calls seeking comment as of this writing. Both reports will be available online Friday at noon EDT here. ®

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