Houston, we have a problem!
For many, space travel is just a dream. For Lisa Nowak, it was a reality. She was an astronaut who’d fulfilled her life-long hope of going into space in July 2006 when she served as a mission specialist with the Discovery.
But she’d been living a double life.
On the one hand, she was a mother to her three children and wife of 19 years to Richard, a NASA flight controller.
On the other hand, she was an astronaut adventurer having a casual fling with her handsome colleague, Bill Oefelein. Only, she’d fallen in love.
That’s when the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head…
Lisa had discovered love letters in Bill’s e-mail inbox from Colleen Shipman, an Air Force captain. Lisa didn’t know how to react. He wasn’t hers, she didn’t have any claim on him.
Within a few weeks, she’d lost a stone through stress, was rowing with her husband. He moved out.
By February she’d had enough. She’d do something about it. She filled a bag with things.
A wig, trenchcoat, BB gun, steel mallet, latex gloves, a hunting knife and bin bags.
Crazed, she drove through the night of 5 February, covering nearly 1,000 miles to get to Colleen. Colleen had never met Lisa before, didn’t know what she looked like.
Lisa followed her from Orlando International Airport, dressed in the wig and trenchcoat.
In the car park, Lisa faced her foe. She said her boyfriend hadn’t turned up and asked Colleen for a lift to the parking office.
Colleen said no, and Lisa burst into tears. Colleen wound down the window to comfort her.
Lisa shoved her hand through the open window, forced pepper spray into the car. Colleen stamped on the accelerator and sped off, missing the worst of the spray.
Both women were soon picked up by the police.
Colleen after a parking attendant spotted her and rang for police assistance. Lisa after she was spotted ditching her wig and trenchcoat.
Police revealed that they’d discovered soiled nappies in Lisa’s car, the type astronauts used in space. She’d worn them so she wouldn’t need to stop during her 1,000 mile trip…
‘I knew in my heart when Lisa Nowak attacked me, she was going to kill me,’ Colleen was heard to sob.
Lisa was initially charged with attempted murder and attempted kidnapping, bailed for $25,500 and ordered to wear a monitoring device.
In November 2009, she appeared before Orange Circuit Court on reduced charges of burglary to a car, a third-degree felony and misdemeanour battery.
She pleaded guilty and apologised unreservedly.
Lisa Nowak, 46, was sentenced to two days in jail, with credit for two days’ time served.
She was also given one year probation and 50 hours community service.
But it was felt she’d already been punished enough.
She’d wasted three years of her life, lost her husband, her lover, the job she loved – and her dignity.
Colleen Shipman and Bill Oefelein subsequently got engaged.
By Rachel Tompkins