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Astronaut Formally Charged With Kidnap Attempt

Astronaut Screening Process Sound, Former NASA Psychiatrist Says
Astronaut Lisa Nowak appears with her attorney Donald Lykkebak, right, before judge Mike Murphy at an Orlando Corrections facility on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. Nowak was making a first appearance on attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery and destruction of evidence and battery charges.
(Image: © AP Photo/ Redd Huber, Orlando Sentinel, Pool.)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Florida prosecutorscharged an astronaut Friday withtrying to kidnap a romantic rival, but they declined to file an attempted murdercharge recommended by police.

LisaNowak, 43, was formally charged almost a month after she was arrested at an Orlando airport parking lot.

Police have said the motherof three had raced 900miles in her car from Houston to Orlando on Feb. 5 to confront a woman sheviewed as a rival for a space shuttle pilot's affection. Nowak donned a wig andtrench coat, then sprayed a chemical into the woman's car when she wouldn't letNowak in, police said.

Officers found a BB-gun, anew steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing in Nowak's car, and recommended shebe chargedwith attempted murder.

Nowak pleaded not guiltylast month on all counts that police recommended. Her attorney, DonaldLykkebak, said that she denies the charges filed Friday: attempted kidnappingwith intent to inflict bodily harm, burglary with an assault using a weapon andbattery.

"The state attorney appearsto recognize that the initial charges were overreaching,'' Lykkebak said. "Unfortunately... the state's current assessment still overstates the conduct.''

Nowak believed ColleenShipman was romantically involved with NavyCmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip tothe spacestation last December, according to police. After the confrontation,Shipman drove to a parking lot booth for help.

Kepler Funk, Shipman'sattorney, said Shipman was pleased prosecutors talked to her before filing thenew charges.

Nowakflew on Discovery last summer and won praise for operating the shuttle'srobotic arm. NASA relieved her of all mission duties after her arrest andplaced her on a 30-day leave, which is up next Thursday. She is free on bondwith an ankle tracking device.

Her arrest was a blackeye for NASA, which had been basking in the success of three shuttlemissions last year. After the arrest, the space agency began reviewing itspsychological screeningprocess for astronauts.

She had been scheduled tobe the groundcommunicator with the space shuttle Atlantis crew that is scheduled tolaunch on a mission to the international spacestation no earlier than late April.

"As of this morning, thereis no change in her status and I do not have information on what her statuswill be when the 30-day leave is up,'' said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston.

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