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NASA Vows to Investigate Reports on Astronauts and Alcohol Use

A top official with the U.S. space agency, NASA, says the agency plans to encourage its employees to express safety concerns, after a panel reported astronauts were allowed to fly after drinking alcohol.

Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said at a news conference Friday that the agency will conduct its own investigation to get more details about the reported incidents. She called the reports "allegations" and said NASA will work to find out if they are true.

The journal Aviation Week and Space Technology reported NASA astronauts flew on at least two occasions after their health supervisors (flight surgeons) warned that they had been drinking alcohol. An independent panel on astronaut health said some astronauts had made "heavy use of alcohol" less than 12 hours before launch, in violation of flight rules.

The health panel was created after the arrest of former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who was charged with the attempted kidnapping of a woman she considered a romantic rival for the affections of another astronaut.