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US Astronaut Arrested in Alleged Attack


A U.S. astronaut has been arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap and kill a female Air Force officer. From Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports that incident with Lisa Nowak involved an apparent rivalry over the affection of a male astronaut.

Police arrested Navy Captain Lisa Nowak Monday after the alleged attack outside an airport in the southeastern state of Florida. Officials say Nowak drove some 1,500 kilometers from Houston to confront Air Force officer Colleen Shipman in the airport parking lot. They say Nowak asked Shipman for a ride in her car, and when she refused, Nowak shot pepper spray into Shipman's face.

Police said Nowak later told them that she was trying to initiate a conversation with Shipman about space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. It is unclear what kind of relationship Nowak had with Navy Commander Oefelein, but officials say she believed Shipman was romantically involved with him.

Police said Nowak was found with an air rifle and a small knife, as well as a wig and trench coat to apparently disguise herself. They also found letters between Nowak and Oefelein.

Prosecutors have filed charges that include attempted murder and kidnapping against Nowak, who is married and has three children.

In a court appearance Tuesday, defense attorney Donald Lykkebak appealed to the judge to release Nowak on bond.

"We have somebody here who is 43 years of age, has an exemplary record of commitment to her career and to this country," he said. "And at times like this, judge, one's good works must account for something."

Members of the U.S. space agency, NASA, traveled to the courthouse in Orlando to make sure astronaut Nowak was safe.

Astronaut Steve Lindsey, who flew a shuttle mission with Nowak last year, said she was an excellent astronaut.

"Our primary focus is her health and well-being and taking care of her, and keeping her safe and getting her with her family, so they deal with this private and very difficult matter," he said.

Nowak was selected in 1996 to join NASA, after training as a pilot with the Navy. She took part in the space shuttle Discovery mission last July, when she operated the robotic arms on the shuttle and on the international space station.

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