ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 6 -- A NASA astronaut was charged Tuesday with attempted first-degree murder in connection with a bizarre attack outside a Florida airport on a woman she saw as a romantic rival in an apparent love triangle involving a shuttle pilot.
Navy Capt. Lisa M. Nowak, 43, a Washington-area native, will be released on bail after payment of a $25,500 bond, which covers the attempted murder charge plus attempted kidnapping and other offenses.
Besides the bond, Nowak must wear a GPS monitoring device, for which she will be charged $15 a day, and stay away from the other woman. The tracking device will tell the monitoring company whenever she enters Florida or tampers with the anklet. In any such cases, the other woman will be notified.
Nowak was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary, destruction of evidence and battery.
Orlando police allege that Nowak, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Rockville's C. W. Woodward High School, drove here from her home in Houston to kidnap and kill Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman because of her alleged relationship with another NASA astronaut, Navy Commander William A. Oefelein.
Both Oefelein, a shuttle pilot and graduate of the Navy's TOPGUN fighter school, and Nowak are based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Neither Shipman nor Oefelein could be reached for comment.
Nowak, a married mother of three and mission specialist on the space shuttle Discovery flight last summer, wore diapers so she did not have to stop for bathroom breaks during the 11-hour drive from Houston. In Florida, she donned a wig and trench coat as a disguise while she waited for Shipman to arrive on a flight at the Orlando International Airport. Shipman is stationed at Patrick Air Force Base near the Kennedy Space Center and was returning from a trip to Houston, according to the affidavit.
Shipman called police, who spotted Nowak near a trash can in the parking lot, disposing of a Co2-powered BB pistol and the wig.
Nowak then gave police permission to search her car, which was parked at a nearby La Quinta Inn. There they found an unused CO-2 cartridge for a BB gun, about six latex gloves, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein and diapers. There was also a letter declaring her love for Oefelein, 41, who was born in Ft. Belvoir but grew up in Anchorage. According to his NASA biography he has two children and participated in the December shuttle mission.
Nowak also had on her a black bag with a brand new steel mallet, a brand new folding knife, three to four feet of rubber tubing, several large plastic garbage bags and approximately $600 in cash. The bag also contained a handwritten list of its contents.
According to the affidavit, Nowak told police she only wanted to talk with Shipman about her relationship with Oefelein. She said it was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship."
But Becton said in his affidavit that he feared for Shipman's safety and asked that Nowak be held without bond.
Her commanding officer said in court that her status with NASA is unchanged at this point.
"Generally speaking, we don't concern ourselves with the personal lives of our employees," said John Ira Petty, a NASA spokesman at Johnson Space Center. "A lot of people here date and marry."
"It's a sad day. She had performed very well on her space flight. She flew on STS-121 and did a real good job. We're concerned. We're surprised."
Nowak's attorney told the judge today that she intended to return to Houston and the Johnson Space Center.
Her commanding officer, Commander Steve Lindsey appeared in court to answer any questions about her for the judge. Petty said her status as an astronaut "as of right now is unchanged."
Nowak has not been assigned another flight crew since last year's space flight and had been performing technical assignments at Johnson Space Center.
After leaving high school in Rockville, Nowak studied aerospace engineering at the Naval Academy, graduating in 1985. She studied aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School, and received a master's degree in 1992. She served as a mission specialist on a shuttle flight over the summer, operating a robotic arm during repair, assembly and testing procedures on the International Space Station.
Staff writer Daniela Deane contributed to this report from Washington.