NASA: Investigation Into Drunk Astronaut Allegations Yields Nothing So Far

NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour Set for Evening Launch
Space Shuttle Endeavour sits on Launch Pad 39A after the Rotating Service Structure was retracted Tuesday night, Aug. 7, 2007, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.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.
(Image: © AP Photo/Bill Sikes.)

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. -- A NASA investigation into alleged alcohol abuse amongastronauts has turned up nothing for at least the last decade, the U.S. spaceagency said Wednesday.

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

Thoroughlook

Mould saidthe space agency is looking through both written records and personnelinterviews across its 26-year shuttle history to investigateallegations of astronauts using alcohol prior to space and trainingmissions.

NASAlaunched the investigation in July after an independent health panel reportedat least two incidents in which astronauts were said to be intoxicated withinthe 12-hour period before spaceflights.

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

In the wakeof the findings, released July 27, NASA began investigating thepanel's anonymous reports. Meanwhile, officials with Russia's Federal Space Agency have deniedthat its Soyuz flyers have flown while drunk.

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

NASA firstcalled for an independent review of its astronaut health program, as well as aparallel internal audit, earlier this year after the arrest of now-formerastronaut Lisa Nowak. Nowak, a mission specialist on NASA's STS-121 return toflight mission in July 2006, was arrested by police at the OrlandoInternational Airport for allegedly attacking a romantic rival for theaffections of space shuttle pilot William Oefelein.

Nowak haspleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping, battery and other charges. NASA dismissed herand Oefelein, both U.S. Navy officers, from their astronaut posts earlierthis year.

Incompleteassessment

With thecurrent investigation still under way, it is too early to discuss possiblepunishments for spaceflyers should the allegations prove true, Mould said. NASAofficials hope to conclude the investigation by the end of the month, he added.

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

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

Commandedby veteran shuttle flyer Scott Kelly, Endeavour's seven-astronaut crew ischarged with delivering a fresh batch of cargo, a hefty spare parts platformand a new starboard-side piece of the space station's main truss to the ISSduring an up to 14-day mission.

The crewalso includes former McCall, Idaho, schoolteacherBarbara Morgan, now a full-fledged educator astronaut, who is making herfirst flight since joining NASA's ranks 22 years ago as the agency's backupTeacher in Space. Morgan trained alongside NASA's prime Teacher in Space, NewHampshire educator Christa McAuliffe, who died with six astronauts when theirspace shuttle Challenger broke apart just after launch in January 1986.

Morganreturned to NASA in 1998 and is one of four educator astronauts in thespace agency's astronaut corps.

SPACE.com Staff Writer Dave Mosher reportedfrom Cape Canaveral, Florida. Staff Writer Tariq Malik contributed to thisreport from New York City.

NASA isbroadcasting the launch of space shuttle Endeavour live on NASA TV. Click here for STS-118 missionupdates and SPACE.com's NASA TV feed.

  • VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan
  • VIDEO: Endeavour's STS-118 Launch Animation
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage

 

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.