Posted: 3:44 PM Feb 6, 2007
Reporter: Associated Press
A judge in Florida has ruled that a NASA astronaut accused of trying to kidnap a romantic rival for a space shuttle pilot's affections can be released if she posts $25,000 bond.
Lisa Nowak was charged this afternoon with attempted first-degree murder and has been told to wear a tracking device and not to contact her alleged victim.
The nutty naut!
Love triangle man, he looks like a guy out of central casting.
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A U.S. space shuttle astronaut was accused on Tuesday of trying to kidnap and kill a rival for the affections of a male astronaut after she drove 950 miles wearing diapers to confront the woman.
U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, who has three children and recently separated from her husband, was released from jail in Florida after posting bail. She was put on 30-day suspension by NASA and removed from all shuttle mission-related activities.
Nowak was initially arrested on attempted kidnapping charges on Monday in Orlando after assaulting Colleen Shipman, a U.S. Air Force captain, who she believed was a rival for the attention of astronaut Bill Oefelein, police said.
She was granted freedom on $15,500 bail on the kidnapping charge but her release was delayed when police filed a new charge of attempted first-degree murder -- rocking the elite world of NASA astronauts.
The attempted murder charge could mean life imprisonment if she were convicted.
Police said Nowak, 43, a flight engineer who made her first trip into space in July to the International Space Station aboard shuttle Discovery, sped from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she would not have to stop at a bathroom.
Astronauts wear diapers during launches and landings.
Nowak disguised herself in a dark wig, glasses and trench coat to confront Shipman at Orlando International Airport but told police she "only wanted to scare" the woman into talking to her.
In two separate appearances in court, wearing a jail uniform, shackled at the waist and with her head bowed, Nowak said nothing about the charges of attempted murder and kidnapping, attempted burglary of a vehicle and battery.
After her second appearance, Orange County Circuit Judge Mike Murphy granted her release on bail totaling $25,500. She was escorted out of a bail bond office, after being fitted with a global positioning device so authorities can track her movements, and driven off to an undisclosed location.
A bail bondsman said Nowak was expected to fly back to Houston on Wednesday and it was not clear when she would appear in court again.
'THE RIGHT STUFF'
NASA's astronaut corps, featured in Tom Wolfe's 1979 book "The Right Stuff," is considered the elite of aerospace and science, populated by top pilots and space researchers from the United States and other nations.
But prosecutors said Nowak was intent on murder.
"She had a mission that she was very determined to carry out," said prosecutor Amanda Cowan. "Murder was the plan."
Nowak drove to Orlando airport around midnight on Sunday, waited for Shipman's flight from Houston to arrive and then followed her to the parking garage armed with pepper spray, a steel mallet and a pellet gun, police said.
She also carried black gloves, a folding knife with a 4-inch (10-cm) blade, rubber tubing and trash bags, they said.
Nowak tried to get into Shipman's car and sprayed the pepper spray through the window when Shipman refused to open the door, police said.
After the airport encounter, Shipman filed a petition for a restraining order against Nowak, alleging the astronaut had been stalking her for "approximately two months."
Nowak told police she did not intend to harm Shipman. In her statement, she described her connection to Oefelein as "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship."
Nowak, who grew up in Rockville, Maryland, and attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, became an astronaut in 1996 and waited 10 years for her first space flight.
Her family described her as "a very intelligent, accomplished individual," who recently separated from her husband after 19 years of marriage.
"Considering both her personal and professional life, these alleged events are completely out of character and have come as a tremendous shock to our family," the family said in a statement.