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NASA fires astronaut Nowak

Story Highlights

• Lisa Nowak was fired a month after her arrest
• Nowak is charged with attempted kidnapping
• She is accused of donning a disguise and attacking a romantic rival
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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak's detail as a NASA astronaut will be terminated, effective Thursday, NASA and the U.S. Navy said Wednesday in a written statement issued jointly.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield said that while it wasn't unusual for astronauts to leave the astronaut corps and return to the military, it was the first time the space agency had requested that the military terminate an assignment.

Hartsfield said Nowak was informed about the request for termination on February 24 by chief astronaut Steve Reynolds but that processing the request took until this week.

Nowak, 43, is charged with attempted kidnapping for allegedly confronting her former boyfriend's new love-interest in a parking lot at Florida's Orlando International Airport on February 5.

In addition to attempted kidnapping, Nowak was charged with battery and burglary of a vehicle with a weapon.

She is scheduled to be arraigned March 22, but has already entered a not guilty plea.

Nowak's attorney said the charges overstate her conduct. The public relations company hired by her attorney, Don Lykkebak, had no comment on Wednesday.

Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein told investigators he and Nowak had been involved in a sexual relationship that he ended in January 2007, two months after meeting Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman.

He said Nowak "appeared to take the news well."

Prosecutors contend Nowak, a mother of three who is seeking a divorce from her husband, drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando -- wearing adult diapers to reduce the number of stops she needed to make -- in order to accost Shipman.

At the Orlando airport, Nowak allegedly disguised herself in a trenchcoat and wig and sprayed pepper spray into Shipman's car when she refused to open the door.

Police found a BB gun, a steel mallet, a 4-inch knife and rubber tubing in a bag Nowak was carrying and in her car, authorities have said.

"We are not surprised nor concerned with Lisa Nowak being fired as an astronaut or whether or not she wore a diaper," said Shipman's lawyer, Kepler Funk, in a written statement. "We continue to focus our concern on Colleen Shipman as a crime victim."

E-mails detail love triangle

Court documents released Tuesday detail Nowak's romantic relationship with Oefelein.

Oefelein told investigators he and Nowak both served on the bicycling team at NASA and had been involved in a sexual relationship for some time. He said he met Shipman in November 2006 while he was involved in pre-launch training at Kennedy Space Center. In January 2007, Oefelein said, he told Nowak he wanted to date Shipman "exclusively."

In her statement, Shipman told investigators she questioned Oefelein about his relationship with Nowak after he told her he was dating someone he worked with.

"I point-blank asked him. When he told me that he had this relationship and that he broke it off with her, I asked him, 'Are you sure that she's OK with this?' Because you know how these things go," Shipman said, according to the court documents.

"And I said, 'Is there going to be some crazy lady showing up at my door trying to kill me?' and he said, 'No, no, no, she's not like that, she's fine with it, she's happy for me.' "

Also released in court documents was a steamy e-mail sent from Shipman to Oefelein in December while he was flying a space shuttle mission, as well as an e-mail he sent to her. Prosecutors believe Nowak found the e-mails on Oefelein's computer. (Full story)

Flying career

Nowak, an active duty naval officer, began her detail with NASA after her selection as a member of the astronaut class of 1996. She flew one mission, STS-121, in 2006.

NASA said it requested Nowak's detail be ended "because the agency lacks the administrative means to deal appropriately with the criminal charges pending against Nowak. Because Nowak is a naval officer on assignment to NASA, rather than a NASA civil servant, she is not subject to administrative action by NASA."

Nowak is to get her next assignment from the U.S. Navy.

"NASA's decision to terminate Nowak's detail does not reflect any position by NASA on the criminal charges pending in Florida," Wednesday's statement said.

A Navy public affairs officer in Washington said Nowak has been assigned to the staff of the chief of naval air training in Corpus Christi, Texas.

She is on leave, scheduled to report March 21.


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NASA announced Wednesday that it fired astronaut Lisa Nowak.

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