Ed Driscoll

Where's Ian Fleming And Gerry Anderson When You Need Them?

Here’s a story that sounds like a subplot that was left on the cutting room floor of Moonraker, or maybe the old UFO TV series:

Lisa Marie Nowak, 43, is (or perhaps was) an active Space Shuttle astronaut, who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer. She was arrested at Orlando International Airport today on attempted kidnapping and battery charges, “after police say she attacked her rival for another astronaut’s attention“, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Ooooooohkaaay. Here’s a plot that Law & Order or CSI: Miami certainly wouldn’t have dreamed up on their own:

Nowak drove more than 12 hours from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing the astronaut Nowak pined for, according to Orlando police.

Nowak — who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer — was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, and latex gloves in her car, reports show. They also found diapers, which Nowak said she used so she wouldn’t have to stop on the 1,000-mile drive. Reports show that after U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman’s flight arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport’s Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman’s car and then doused her with pepper spray.

Nowak, 43, is charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted vehicle burglary with battery and destruction of evidence. Police considered her such a danger that they requested she be held without bail in the Orange County Jail, reports show.

A married mother of three, Nowak told police that she was “involved in a relationship with,” Bill Oefelein, another NASA astronaut, which she categorized as “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to the charging affidavit.

Oefelein, who piloted the most recent shuttle Discovery flight in December, could not be reached Monday night at home in Houston.

Given all of the recent attention that the first efforts towards privatizing manned spaceflight had been getting, this sounds like just what the doctor (McCoy, or Crusher, I guess) ordered to get NASA’s PR machine back on track!

Or not.

Update: I guess there’s a bright side to this story, in a way. We’re one step closer to living in Star Trek, in that, when everyone’s an astronaut, or at least space travel is commonplace, such stories are bound to start proliferating.

We’ve come a long way though, from the early days of NASA, when Henry Luce of Time and Life went to such enormous lengths to make the original Mercury 7 astronauts appear as clean cut and wholesome as boy scouts to preserve their mythic, heroic status. This story is an effective bookend to that innocence of NASA’s heady early days.

Another Update: Ed Morrissey adds:

NASA will have some work to do to deconstruct all of the ways in which this trio managed to embarrass the program in such a tawdry way. They’d better be quick about it, though, because this is the most eligible story for TV moviedom since a cheerleader’s mom tried to find a hitman for the mother of a rival.

But only if they get the special effects right. Industrial Light & Magic–time to fire up that blue screen again!

One More: More here.