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Space loverat romanta-dustup evidence appealed

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The legal team of Lisa Nowak, the one-time NASA spacewoman accused of planning to abduct and mishandle a rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, appeared again in court yesterday. Prosecutors were appealing against an earlier decision to throw out most of the evidence in the case.

Florida cops originally braceleted Nowak in an airport carpark after she pepper-sprayed air force officer Colleen Shipman. The stricken airwoman managed to make a getaway to a bus stop, but prosecutors allege that had she not done so the consequences might have been unfortunate.

Nowak was said by police to have stashed various items including an air pistol, a knife, rubbish bags and a mallet in her car, and to have driven cross-country to confront Shipman wearing absorbent space knickers so as to minimise the need for comfort stops. She also disguised herself with a wig and sunglasses before opening up a can of chemical whup-ass on her romantic protagonist.

Nowak and Shipman were said to have vied for the attentions of space shuttle driver Bill Oefelein, a former navy pilot. Oefelein apparently enjoyed both women's affections, perhaps concurrently with those of his wife, while Nowak was still married to another naval officer. The space shuttle love rat then finished with Nowak, prompting the mother of three to take drastic steps.

However, in cuffing the scuffling, trenchcoated, nappy-clad astronaut it appears that the Florida plods neglected to fully inform her of her rights, invalidating most of the evidence they obtained. A beak threw it all out last year, more or less driving a horse and cart through the prosecution case.

In yesterday's hearing, prosecutors attempted to get that ruling overturned. A three-member appeals panel will examine their arguments, but Judge Alan Lawson reportedly said: "I don't see in your additional brief how the trial judge erred."

NASA has drummed Nowak and Oefelein out of the astronaut corps. Both are back with the US navy in holding assignments, awaiting the results of the civil court proceedings. They may subsequently face courts-martial for naval offences such as conduct unbecoming an officer. ®

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