An Astronaut’s Love…

She graduated from the naval academy in 1985 and served in the navy before being recruited into National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She first joined the space programme in April 1996. She spent ten years at NASA and was finally selected to fly aboard the space shuttle in July 2006. The director of the Johnson Space Centre when she was selected for the space corps, George Abbey, recalled her as “an outstanding candidate” for the programme at that time.

Today Lisa Marie Novak is charged with the attempted murder of a woman she believed to be her rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut. Police claim that she drove from Texas to Florida and was wearing a diaper so that she did not have to stop for breaks. She put on a wig and was carrying a compressed air pistol, a steel mallet, a knife, pepper spray, rubber tubing, latex gloves and garbage bags. In Orlando, she sought out the woman in a parking lot and started attacking her with pepper spray.

Novak has been married to a flight controller for 19 years and live together with her husband and their children in Houston. A brilliant career and a seemingly happy family life broke down in a moment when she gave in to her emotions and acted insanely. The man Novak committed the crime for was a 41-year-old divorcee with two children. Commander William A Oefelein was a fellow astronaut of Novak. The victim of the attack was Captain Colleen Shipman who sought a protective order against Novak.

Chosen for the elite space programme, Novak must have been a candidate of strong character and discipline. Carefully chosen after a rigorous selection system and top-notch training, she should have tight control over her emotions more than the average person on the street. But the incident shows that “like any other people, they are also human.” When the surface of the control breaks, it shatters more because of the enforced discipline and pressure surrounding them. This also brings to mind the extreme torture methods carried out by American soldiers on the Abu Ghraib prisoners. Did Novak just changed in a flip of the coin from a responsible astronaut to a wild green-eyed murderess? Is Mr Hyde lurking inside us? Is there a Lord of the Flies in all our hearts? I’m not expressing sympathy for Novak’s actions but trying to understand better what triggers her shocking action.

Lisa Marie Novak