Ah, the complications that arise when romantic commitments go awry. Perhaps most tragic is when it’s all played out in public and the personal pain of all parties concerned becomes fodder for the media.
Such is the case with Lisa Nowak, who was an astronaut for NASA until gaining infamy for being the explosive tip of a love triangle. Nowak, who was a mission specialist in robotics on the space shuttle Discovery in 2006, went from being a woman worthy of emulation for the strides she made in a male-dominated field (she was a Naval Flight Officer and achieved the rank of Captain) to just another person driven to despair by romantic entanglements.
Nowak is back in the news of late as a Navy panel has recommended downgrading her rank to Commander and refusing to give her an honorable discharge.
A Navy panel says the service should discharge former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who lost her NASA job over a bizarre airport attack on a romantic rival.
The panel made the recommendation Thursday after a daylong hearing at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville.
The recommendation now goes to the Naval Personnel Command. A final decision will be made by the Secretary of the Navy.
The panel recommended downgrading Nowak from captain to commander and giving her a discharge of “other than honorable.”
So what exactly did Nowak do? It was pretty sensationalized back in the winter of 2007, but basically she went to the Orlando International Airport armed with paraphernalia ranging from pepper spray to a black wig to a BB gun with the alleged purpose of kidnapping Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, the girlfriend of Nowak’s kinda sorta secret boyfriend William Oefelein, who was also an astronaut.
Despite being pepper sprayed by Nowak while sitting in her car, Shipman managed to reach the parking lot booth and get help.
Nowak was arrested at the airport and charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, and destruction of evidence (an officer saw Nowak trying to put some stuff into a trash container).
Obviously—and with good reason—Nowak was fired from her NASA assignment. She pled guilty to felony burglary charges and misdemeanor battery through the court system and was sentenced to a year of probation, although her fate with the military—including possible charges in that venue—have been looming over her.
And now the other shoe is dropping for Lisa Nowak as she is losing any vestige of a dream she probably harbored as a very young child.
Please don’t get the idea that I feel that Nowak was at all justified in her actions. I most vehemently do not. She 100% deserved the punishment she received through the court system (in fact, I think she got off kind of lightly, when all is said and done) and she should absolutely not receive an honorable military discharge. She did not act honorably, she did not represent the tenets of the United States military, and she should have to bear the consequences of a choice she made.
I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for her, though.
The thing is, Bill Oefelein was also dismissed from NASA, and his sleazeball actions of carrying on a multi-year affair with Nowak while officially dating Shipman led to the creation of an astronaut “Code of Conduct.” However, Oefelein was reassigned to the Navy, eventually retired and moved to Alaska with Shipman (who, for some strange reason, is still planning on marrying the dirtbag).
Oefelein’s decision to juggle two women, one on the surface and one on an as-needed basis, without a doubt played a role in Nowak’s actions. I’m not saying the guy got off scot-free—I’m sure he also had childhood dreams of being an astronaut that were dashed because he couldn’t keep it in his pants—but he does not have “dishonorable discharge” stamped on his military papers.
It’s none of my business to judge who sleeps with whom. If you are married or in a committed relationship and choose to stray (or if you’re partaking in sexual acts with a married man or woman), that’s between you and God. You’re the person who has to look yourself in the mirror.
But it’s playing with fire despite that–and, make no mistake, it is wrong.
Lisa Nowak was wrong, and her actions toward her boyfriend’s
real other girlfriend were clearly the result of a disturbed mind. However, Bill Oefelein was also wrong … wrong for stepping out on his committed relationship but also wrong for not realizing the damage his actions were having on Nowak. And Colleen Shipman is just stupid.
Who needs Days of Our Lives or As the World Turns when NASA gives us shit like this?