On the Fall of Astronauts

Feb 7, 2007 1:40pm

A professor of mine once said, "stop doing research when you meet yourself coming in the other direction."  I went poking around the blogosphere, looking to see what the world is saying about the Lisa Nowak story, and got the picture in minutes. Lots of jokes about "the Wrong Stuff."  Plenty of "Houston, We Have a Problem" headlines (we briefly had one ourselves).  Guffaws all over about Capt. Nowak’s use of adult diapers so she wouldn’t have to make pit stops as she drove from Houston to Orlando.  Puns: "astro-nut" and the like. Plenty of juxtapositions of her formal NASA portrait with her mug shot (we did that too).
There’s at least one site which lets you vote: "Which is more out in space? Lisa Nowak or the Moon?" Newer posts seem a touch more reflective, expressing sorrow for Nowak, her alleged victim, and the man caught in the middle.  And in the midst of it all I find an old contact, Dr. Pat Santy, a psychiatrist who used to work for NASA, and says he’s glad she doesn’t anymore.  "In spite of all the cheerful NASA publicity, the astronauts are only human beings after all," she writes.  Then she goes on to wonder what it is that pushes an accomplished, presumably-balanced person over the edge: "Why bother to go to the trouble of choosing "the right stuff" in the first place when the superstar culture of the astronauts only encourages the worst sort of narcissism and sociopathy? Even if an astronaut didn’t have an iota of such psychopathology before they their selection as an astronaut, they are at extremely high risk in the toxic NASA culture of developing it." Dr. Santy calls the Nowak affair a B-grade thriller, and has moved on to other things.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus