February 7, 2007

"These people are extremely well-suited, by personality and training, to deal with the stresses of being in space..."

Back on earth... not so much. And those "Right Stuff" days are over:
Today’s astronauts find themselves in a world much less glamorous than the original crews. While the Mercury Seven raced Corvettes, today’s family-oriented fliers are likelier to tool around in minivans.
Isn't the Space Shuttle itself sort of a minivan?
They spend much more time in suburbia than in orbit, and there are no more ticker-tape parades for the returning heroes.

Some former officials of the space program said that romantic thoughts and even love triangles were not unknown to the program but that it was up to management to watch carefully and intervene.

Mr. Abbey, the former Johnson Space Center director, said, “You’ve got some hard-charging people...
Hard-charging, in diapers!
"... and you need to manage them.” Problems like this “don’t happen overnight,” and so “you have to be sensitive to what your people are doing.”

Now and then on his watch, he recalled, “I stepped in, and people weren’t happy about it,” he recalled, but it was important to tell them that “what you’re doing is not a personal thing for you — it’s affecting a lot of people around you, and affecting your performance.”
Oh, so it's one big soap opera with them? I await the TV series: "Desperate Astronauts." The possibilities are endless, both on the ground and in the orbiting giant minivan.

Is there no dignity left for that archetypal American figure, the astronaut? Now, they are reduced to whimpering to the media: "we call them urine collection devices."

21 comments:

Simon said...

I thought these people went through rigorous psychological screening before we put them in charge of several other astronauts' lives and several billion dollars' worth of equipment? What went wrong?

Bruce Hayden said...

They appparently do the extensive testing before bringing them into the program, and after that, they only do job evaluations. Captain Nowak had been in the program since 1996 and flew in 2006. So, her psychological evaluation was a decade ago.

Interestingly, if she were still in the Navy, this would probably have been her ticket out - she was committing adultery, conduct unbecoming of an officer. I couldn't tell if Nowak's rival, Captain Shipman was married or not, but the object of their mutual lust, Commander Oefelein, is apparently divorced.

NSC said...

I thought these people went through rigorous psychological screening before we put them in charge of several other astronauts' lives and several billion dollars' worth of equipment? What went wrong?

Nothing went wrong. They are human, after all, with all of humanity's weaknesses. Frankly, it is surprising that something like this has not happened before now - or maybe it did and we just didn't hear about it because in the olden, golden days, the media actually hid stuff like this because it was bad for the country.

But the bloom is off the astronaut rose now, much like it has been off the NASA rose since the Challenger disaster.

RogerA said...

At the risk of feeling like a hypocrite (I was making jokes about this on a thread below, on further reflection it is ultimately a very sad story and is going to have a significant negative effect on a lot of innocent people (the 5 children of at least two of the people involved.

tcd said...

Great, a scandal to let the anti-space exploration crowd call for the dissolution of NASA (note NSC's comment). And please, stop blaming "Suburbia" for the crazies amongst us.

vnjagvet said...

I'm with Roger A on this one. I was joking yesterday, but today, I think this woman has serious mental or emotional problems.
That is ultimately a sad situation.

AllenS said...

Let's talk about Commander Oefelein. Is this guy some sort of stud, or what? Unlike the fairy-like Prince, with his funny looking guitar-penis, the commander must have the whole package.

J said...

"Interestingly, if she were still in the Navy, this would probably have been her ticket out"

She is still in the Navy. But adultery tends to be a "kitchen sink" charge in the military. The attempted kidnapping will be a different matter, of course. She'd better hope she gets tried by the civilian system. For Ann - since the attack was on another servicemember, is that likely (or certain) to push this into a military court?

Susan said...

The article says, "Captain Shipman is seeking a protective order against Captain Nowak". But the judge granting bail has made Captain Nowak wear a tracking devise and told her she must stay away from Captain Shipman. What more would a protective order do to keep her away?

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

"Let's talk about Commander Oefelein. Is this guy some sort of stud, or what?"

Asked for comment, the Commander responded: "Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear. And when I do, it's usually something unusual"

vbspurs said...

Is there no dignity left for that archetypal American figure, the astronaut? Now, they are reduced to whimpering to the media: "we call them urine collection devices."

I weep for my childhood heroine, Dr. Sally Ride.

You've come a long way, crazy.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

J said:

She is still in the Navy. But adultery tends to be a "kitchen sink" charge in the military. The attempted kidnapping will be a different matter, of course. She'd better hope she gets tried by the civilian system

This totally reminds me of a Law&Order episode, where a dishy female naval aviator was accused of killing a Petty Officer with whom she had been having an affair.

JAG tried to get jurisdiction, but failed.

(All eyes turn to ex-JAG officer, Ruth Anne Adams)

Cheers,
Victoria

sonicfrog said...

Favorite tag line so far?

"Lust In Space"

peter hoh said...

A young mother friend of mine made the comment that she loves this kind of story. It helps assure her that there is no way that she's the worst mommy out there.

Cedarford said...

NSC - But the bloom is off the astronaut rose now, much like it has been off the NASA rose since the Challenger disaster.

Hardly, These are NASA's greatest days ever for unmanned exploration and 2nd greatest days ever for aeronautics (its other charter besides space) doing incredible new airplane technology demo projects.
***************

I thought these people went through rigorous psychological screening before we put them in charge of several other astronauts' lives and several billion dollars' worth of equipment? What went wrong?

Nothing. Psychology is an imperfect "science", at best. Yes you can screen out certain obvious behaviors and detect people with observable or testble brain chemistry disorders. But others nutty as squirrels can get by. Not necessarily malignant folks, just highly talented, well-whacked folks with mostly harmless phobias, perversions, delusions....

I went through a military elite program and we had a party for all the sane people the psychologists rejected - leaving us better liars, believers in UFOs, pyromaniacs, talkers to dogs, as well as a large cadre of stolid, completely unimaginative men who obviously had no "problems" because they had no personalities or were so shallow one look in their eyes verified you saw the bottom of their depths which nearly touched their surface.

The program was not as exhausive as the NASA one, but close. 3 solid days of MMI other tests, interviews.

We concluded the psychologists, psychiatrists, and the people that drew up the tests were themselves crazy -
*****************

She is still in the Navy. But adultery tends to be a "kitchen sink" charge in the military. The attempted kidnapping will be a different matter, of course. She'd better hope she gets tried by the civilian system. For Ann - since the attack was on another servicemember, is that likely (or certain) to push this into a military court?

Not true on the 1st 2 points. And no, it is a crime that was all in the civilian sphere of jurisdiction - all off base. Sometimes the civvies are glad to wash their hands of a matter that involves only military personnel - but's their call for crimes done in their sphere of authority.

As for adultery, no, the military will overlook it until it brings discredit or undermines good order and discipline of the unit. Just like gay behavior. Or minor recreational drug use.

As for justice, Nowak is far better off in military justice than civilian justice with prosecutors that advance careers by the number of heads they take. The military courts are far more sympathetic to meltdowns. Her military career is all but assuredly over for adultery, officer misconduct and unreliability - before you factor in civilian charges - and the military that once gave "high performing females" a latitude they did not give men in disciplinary actions nor longer does as much now.

There is some room in this case for her victims (cockholded officer husband, officer she assaulted) to encourage authorities to hand her over to a military court martial. Fine her, dismiss her, and get her in a mental health recovery.

J said...

"Not true on the 1st 2 points"

1. I'm not sure what you mean - many remarks in your comment appear to assume she's still in the Navy.

2. I spent quite awhile in the military, and the only situations where I've seen or heard of disciplinary action over adultery were A.) incidents within the organization at relatively isolated bases, where adultery really does damage unit cohesion and B.) as an add-on charge in addition to other charges in an apparent effort to enhance whatever discipline might be handed out. I've seen an exponentially larger number of B situations, hence the "tends to be a kitchen sink charge" remark.

Susan said...

"Fine her, dismiss her, and get her in a mental health recovery program." (I've forgotten how to use HTML tags.)

One look at Captain Nowak's face in the newspaper front page editions tells the entire story: the deepest remorse and despair. She's lost everything - and no one else really got hurt, fortunately, physically. Again, a crime of passion albeit an unusual one. Prison is for those without regret.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Althouse said: "Isn't the Space Shuttle itself sort of a minivan?"

This is why I love this blog. That line may seem like a throwaway, but it is profound.

The space shuttle sucks to a mytho-poetic degree. Historians will be debating the how and why of its suckage for centuries. They will call the era "The Big Boring."

It's time to get back to serious space conquering. Let's bring an end to "The Big Boring." Let's inaugurate "The First Rush."

Susan said...

Fine, let's go to Mars. But in the meantime: I still think Lisa Nowak didn't have any idea of what she was actually up to. For one thing, she wasn't even Bill Oefelein's girlfriend; the other woman was his girlfriend and Lisa was the cupcake on the side. She had recently separated from her husband of two decades and had entered her early forties by a year or so. A dangerous time of life.

She went to Florida to try to prevent the girlfriend from returning to Houston where Bill was stationed. But Bill was in Florida on leave at the time. Did she think Colleen's disappearance was just going to go unnoticed? Did she think Colleen would listen to her with Bill right there at Kennedy?

Astronauts are problem solvers; that's what they are trained to do. Their lives in fact depend on it. Lisa was just removing an obstacle - in a complete break from reality. She had had one goal in life since kindergarten and she achieved it when she went up in the shuttle in the summer of 2006. So now what? "Is this all there is?" Poor kid, to be so focused for four decades and then to completely lack direction! Well, she found one, evidently, in Bill.

I hope the Houston DA gets a sense of this somehow and leaves it up to NASA and the military. Lisa Nowak should be on suicide watch. She needs a lot of help.

Sissy Willis said...

How quickly they forget . . . Just how glamorous was "spam in a can," as the boys in Tom Wolfe's TRS called themselves? Like other dream factories, the Space Program was never what it seemed.