Astronaut's Family, NASA Release Statements After Arrest

Astronaut Biography: Lisa Nowak
Astronaut Lisa M. Nowak, mission specialist. Image
(Image: © NASA)

NASA and the family of astronautLisa Nowak released separate statements late Tuesday on the spaceflyer's Monday arrest by Florida police.

"Weare deeply saddened by this tragic event," said Michael Coats,director of NASA's Johnson Space Centerin Houstonwhere astronauts are trained, in the space agency's statement. "The chargesagainst Lisa Nowak are serious ones that must be decided by the judicialsystem."

Policeofficers in Orlando, Florida arrested Nowak earlyMonday, charging her first with attempted kidnapping and other counts, then later adding the attempted murdercount based on weaponsand items authorities said they found with the astronaut or in her car.

Policecharged Nowak with acting out a bizarre plan to kidnap Colleen Shipman, a womanthe astronaut reportedly believed to be involved with another NASA spaceflyer - shuttlepilot William Oefelein.

Nowakallegedly drove the 900 miles (about 1,500 kilometers) from her Houston home to the Orlandoairport to confront Shipman, according to an arrest affidavit. She was releasedfrom jail Tuesday on $25,500 bail, the Associated Press reported.

Coatsstated that Nowak, a 43-year-old U.S. Navy captain and trained space shuttlemission specialist, has been removed from flight status and all mission-relatedactivities.

"Sheis officially on 30-day leave and has been removed from flight status and allmission-related activities," Coats said in the statement. "We will continue tomonitor developments in the case."

NASAspokesperson Kylie Clem, of the Johnson Space Center,told SPACE.com Tuesday that Nowak was preparing to serve as a spacecraftcommunicator, or CAPCOM, during the space agency's next shuttle mission -- STS-117aboard the Atlantis orbiter -- slated to launchon March 15.

Aveteran U.S. Navy captain and native of Washington, D.C., Nowak is a mother to ateenage son and two young daughters and first joined NASA's astronaut ranks inApril 1996.

Aftermore than a decade of training and preparation, Nowak served as a shuttle and space stationrobotic arm handler during NASA'sSTS-121 mission -- the agency's second test flight following the 2003 Columbia accident. Theastronaut launchedwith her five fellow crewmates on July 4, 2006 on a 13-day flight to the International SpaceStation (ISS), during which she and fellow robotics specialist StephanieWilson were dubbed "Robochicks" by flight controllers[image].

"Lisais a very intelligent, accomplished individual," Nowak's family said in astatement released late Tuesday. "As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, andin her professional career in the Navy and NASA's Space Shuttle program, shehas served over 20 years with an unblemished record."

Nowaktrained alongside Oefelein in the past, but the twoastronauts have not flown together. Oefelein, a Navycommander who joined NASA in 1998, made his first spaceflight in Decemberduring the STS-116 mission to the ISS aboard the Discovery orbiter.

In theirstatement, Nowak's family members thanked supporters for their thoughts andprayers, and added that she is "an extremely caring and dedicated mother to herthree children."

"Weare naturally saddened and extremely concerned about the serious allegationsbeing made against Lisa," the family's statement read. "We love her very much,and right now, our primary focus is on her health and well-being."

According tothe statement, Nowak and her husband Richard have been married for 19 years,but separated a few weeks ago.

"Consideringboth her personal and professional life, these alleged events are completelyout of character and have come as a tremendous shock to our family," thefamily's statement read. "We hope that the public will keep an open mind aboutwhat the facts will eventually show and that the legal system will be allowedto run its course."

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