Before Alleged Assault, Ex-Astronaut Nowak Was on the Outs at NASA

Astronaut Lisa Nowak knew she wasn't going to get another shuttle flight before she made her mad cross-country drive from Houston to Orlando, Fla., where she is accused of trying to kidnap a romantic rival this past February.

Mark Kelly, the pilot on her one and only space flight, gave her the bad news, according to a statement he made to police.

Kelly portrayed Nowak as a selfish person and not a team player, according to documents released by the Orange County Court in Florida, where Nowak is being prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and assault.

Nowak flew with six other astronauts on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006, a mission designated STS-121.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • The pilot on her one and only space flight portrays Nowak as not a team player, in documents released by the Orange County Court in Florida, where Nowak is being prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and assault. Other former colleagues say her recent behaviour was out of character.

"Nowak was disappointed that Stephanie Wilson, her colleague on STS-121, got an assignment (STS-120) for which Nowak was considered," said Kelly in his statement. "Wilson was chosen for the position because she is a team player and well deserving. Nowak was not. Kelly was the first to tell Nowak that Wilson was chosen and Nowak was not. She was not happy."

What Other Astronauts Said About Nowak

Other astronauts in her office portrayed Nowak as a dedicated, hardworking colleague. Astronaut Joan Higginbotham told police, "If you did not know Nowak personally, she could be perceived as standoffish and reserved." She described Nowak as very professional and detail oriented, adding, "Nowak's behavior that resulted in her arrest was out of character."

Astronaut Mark Polansky, who flew with Nowak's alleged love interest, Bill Oefelein, said he knew about Oefelein's divorce but not about the affair between Nowak and Oefelein. He did tell investigators, however, that it was obvious the two were friends. He reported that he saw them at the gym together, and knew they often flew T-38 flights together.

STS-121 colleague Mike Fossum told police that Nowak could be "prickly" about things, or even contentious. She was not always pleasant to be around, he said.

All the evidence that has been released since Nowak's arrest on Feb. 5 details a love affair between Nowak and Oefelein that he thought had ended, but that she clearly did not. Oefelein told police he had been having an affair with Nowak, the 43-year-old mother of three, for "some time." They had worked together on several projects at the Johnson Space Center, and had belonged to the same bicycling team.

The Romantic Triangle

Oefelein met another woman, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, at the Kennedy Space Center last fall while he was training for mission STS-116. He continued to date Nowak even while he was getting more involved with Shipman, according to his statement to investigators at the Orlando Police Department.

Shipman thought she was the only one dating Oefelein. "He told me he'd had a relationship with a lady that he works with and that the relationship was over, and he had told that lady that the relationship was over," she said. "I asked him if he made it clear to her that it was over, and he said yes."

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