Lisa Marie Nowak, a 43-year-old NASA astronaut who soared into space last summer, was grounded Tuesday in an Orange County Jail cell, accused of trying to kill her rival in a love triangle with another NASA astronaut.
In an unprecedented fall from grace, police say Nowak went from a robotic arm specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery, to a vengeful schemer who drove from Texas to Florida ñ wearing diapers along the way to make better time on the road ñ in order to stalk and confront Air Force Capt. Colleen Simpson at a satellite parking lot in the Orlando airport during the wee hours of the morning.
Nowak, a mother of three who lists such “quiet hobbies” as taking care of indoor plants among her free-time interests, was arrested after the pepper-sprayed Simpson got away and called police. When police arrested Nowak, they took from her a BB pistol, a new steel mallet, a folding knife with a four-inch blade, rubber tubing, several large plastic garbage bags and a few pairs of Latex gloves.
Police also found emails from Shipman to NASA astronaut William Oefelein and a love letter Nowak had written to Oefelein.
Oefelein, 41, an unmarried father of two, was the pilot of the Discovery mission that launched in December. He and Nowak had never flown on the same shuttle crew, but they had received NASA leadership and team development training together three years ago in Canada.