NASA: Investigation Into Drunk Astronaut Allegations Yields Nothing So Far
Space Shuttle Endeavour sits on Launch Pad 39A after the Rotating Service Structure was retracted Tuesday night, Aug. 7, 2007, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Endeavour is scheduled for liftoff Wednesday evening.
Credit: AP Photo/Bill Sikes.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A NASA investigation into alleged alcohol abuse among astronauts has turned up nothing for at least the last decade, the U.S. space agency said Wednesday.

"We've gone through the last 10 years of shuttle flights, and we haven't found anything," NASA spokesperson David Mould of the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters, told SPACE.com here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). 
 
Mould spoke as NASA primes the space shuttle Endeavour for an evening launch
tonight toward the International Space Station at 6:36 p.m. EDT (2236 GMT) from KSC's Pad 39A.

Thorough look

Mould said the space agency is looking through both written records and personnel interviews across its 26-year shuttle history to investigate allegations of astronauts using alcohol prior to space and training missions.

NASA launched the investigation in July after an independent health panel reported at least two incidents in which astronauts were said to be intoxicated within the 12-hour period before spaceflights.

U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Bachmann, Jr., a veteran flight surgeon who chaired the panel, said the two alleged incidents revolved around an astronaut who flew a NASA T-38 jet after a scrubbed shuttle launch attempt, as well as a spaceflyer preparing for a Russian Soyuz launch to the International Space Station (ISS). But the panel did not name specific missions, dates or astronauts in its report, he added.

In the wake of the findings, released July 27, NASA began investigating the panel's anonymous reports. Meanwhile, officials with Russia's Federal Space Agency have denied that its Soyuz flyers have flown while drunk.

"Anything we can possibly think of, we want to find out what the facts are," Mould said. "If there's something there, we'll find it."

NASA first called for an independent review of its astronaut health program, as well as a parallel internal audit, earlier this year after the arrest of now-former astronaut Lisa Nowak. Nowak, a mission specialist on NASA's STS-121 return to flight mission in July 2006, was arrested by police at the Orlando International Airport for allegedly attacking a romantic rival for the affections of space shuttle pilot William Oefelein.

Nowak has pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping, battery and other charges. NASA dismissed her and Oefelein, both U.S. Navy officers, from their astronaut posts earlier this year.

Incomplete assessment

With the current investigation still under way, it is too early to discuss possible punishments for spaceflyers should the allegations prove true, Mould said. NASA officials hope to conclude the investigation by the end of the month, he added.

"We're shooting for the end of August, but [we] might be able to finish sooner than that," Mould said. "We weren't given any parameters of how old these things actually were. We'll go as far back as we need to."

Meanwhile, NASA is counting down to the Endeavour's planned launch.

Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Scott Kelly, Endeavour's seven-astronaut crew is charged with delivering a fresh batch of cargo, a hefty spare parts platform and a new starboard-side piece of the space station's main truss to the ISS during an up to 14-day mission.

The crew also includes former McCall, Idaho, schoolteacher Barbara Morgan, now a full-fledged educator astronaut, who is making her first flight since joining NASA's ranks 22 years ago as the agency's backup Teacher in Space. Morgan trained alongside NASA's prime Teacher in Space, New Hampshire educator Christa McAuliffe, who died with six astronauts when their space shuttle Challenger broke apart just after launch in January 1986.

Morgan returned to NASA in 1998 and is one of four educator astronauts in the space agency's astronaut corps.

SPACE.com Staff Writer Dave Mosher reported from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Staff Writer Tariq Malik contributed to this report from New York City.

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