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Shuttle commander: Alcohol report lacks facts

  • Story Highlights
  • Shuttle commander Scott Kelly blasts alcohol report
  • Kelly: Report makes us look like a frat house
  • The report does not offer any facts to substantiate the claims
  • Next Article in Technology »
By Miles O'Brien
CNN
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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- Astronaut Scott Kelly is never one to mince words, and there is no doubt he is not very happy about the rumors that NASA astronauts have mixed alcohol and rocket fuel, so to speak.

The shuttle Endeavour commander called CNN Space Correspondent Miles O'Brien on Monday from the astronaut crew quarters here at the Cape.

He had just penned a scathing letter to the editor responding to that bombshell report last week that implied astronauts on three occasions violated the so called "bottle-to-throttle" rule.

In short, astronauts had flown on the shuttle, on T-38 jets and a Russian Soyuz rocket either drunk or at least hung over.

"To imply that my crew or I would ever consider launching on our mission in anything but the best possible condition is utterly ridiculous," Kelly penned in the letter. "It is beyond my comprehension that anyone in the astronaut office would consider doing what is suggested in this report."

So what was reaction inside the Astronaut Office?

"I think it was just shock," said Kelly who finds the unverified stories hard to believe. Would these type A-plus overachievers -- so focused on realizing their lifelong dream of spaceflight -- really risk it all for one last tall boy after last call?

The report says "alcohol is freely used in crew quarters."

"What the hell does that mean?" said Kelly. "It depends on the person's opinion. If you don't drink any alcohol at all, having a beer a month before the flight might be someone's definition of wrong, I don't know."

"It makes us sound like some sort of frat house," said Kelly. "I have never seen that."

The report does not offer any facts to substantiate the claims. The committee was charged simply with looking into how well NASA cares for the mental health of its astronauts after the arrest of now former astronaut Lisa Nowak. She was ­charged with assaulting a romantic rival after a bizarre sprint halfway across the country.

Kelly said he is "shocked that a report like this was released without any facts. I mean, it is hard to believe."

NASA Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O'Connor, a former astronaut, did talk to Kelly about the report.

According to Kelly, it went something like this: "He said, 'So you understand what the policy is? "And I go, 'Yeah, I understood it the past 11 years. "And that was about it.' "

The policy is no secret. Astronauts are supposed to put 12 hours between their last drink ­and the next flight. Simple as that. Everyone knows the rules.

And if an astronaut were determined to violate those rules on the day of a shuttle launch, he or she would be hard pressed ­as shuttle crews launch to space at the end of their day. Kelly and his crew awoke at 8 a.m. ET this morning ­and their launch is slated for 6:36 p.m. ET. So to break the rules, they would have to be swilling booze at breakfast. Learn about the mission »

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As for the rest of their day, well, let's just say on launch day astronauts do not get much privacy.

"You have these cameras all over that you would think would see something, somebody would notice something," said Kelly. "Not to mention the fact that we are actually professionals and we wouldn't do that." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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