Lisa Marie Novak Astronaut Love Triangle Kidnapping

Between begging at my local NPR affiliate this morning, I heard about the rather bizarre case of an astronaut being charged with kidnapping.

An astronaut drove 900 miles and donned a disguise to confront a woman she believed was her rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, police said. She was arrested Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

Lisa Marie Nowak Astronaut Kidnapper Photo In this undated photo released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak is shown. (AP) U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail and is scheduled to make a court appearance Tuesday.

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport to confront Colleen Shipman. Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery’s trip to the space station last December, police said. Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to an arrest affidavit. Police officers recovered a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston said that, as of Monday, Nowak’s status with the astronaut corps remained unchanged. “What will happen beyond that, I will not speculate,” he said. Hartsfield said he couldn’t recall the last time an astronaut was arrested and said there were no rules against fraternizing among astronauts.

When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop to urinate, authorities said. Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman’s car, the affidavit said. Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called.

During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said. Inside Nowak’s vehicle, which was parked at a nearby motel, authorities uncovered a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein. They also found a letter “that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein,” an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman’s home address and hand written directions to the address, the arrest affidavit said.

Police said Nowak told them that she only wanted to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein and didn’t want to harm her physically. “If you were just going to talk to someone, I don’t know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray,” said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. “It’s just really a very sad case. … Now she ends up finding herself on the other side of the law with some very serious charges.”

This rivals John Hinkley’s plan to assassinate Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster in the annals of bizarre romance tales.

FILED UNDER: Policing, Uncategorized, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Between the diapers and the mugshot, I think she might look a little closer to home about why she’s not winning the boy.

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    Sounds like Los Alamos National Laboratory isn’t the only place that’s had trouble vetting its people recently.

  3. Jay Montana says:

    Was Lisa Novak going to expose a NASA secret experiment or project? Is there something NASA doesn’t want the public to know?

    Think about all the movies on the subject.

    Just a thought

  4. Phil Smith says:

    She cleans up nice, though.

  5. lorene says:

    Sad. so sad. what a cheap way to advertise DEPENDS.
    truly, it is sad for the 3 kids and imagine how embarrassed her husband must be! sounds like this hotee Olefin guy, did not even have a romantic thing going on with Lisa. Is HE married too? let’s see a photo of the other woman Capt. Shipman.

  6. floyd says:

    Was that “Astronaut”?? Or was it Space Cadet??

  7. someone says:

    That’s a KA-RAAAAY-ZEEEEE!!!

  8. celia says:

    i think this is so sad i know lisa had to have just snapped.. we like to think because she wk for nasa and was so smart that she must be perfect and couldnt have normal feelings ….anyone would of us have she justed snapped yes snapped she had so much on her that she couldnt even make since of any thing pray for he and her children tu celia