Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Flight Status: Flight Risk

Rule # 1 of successful blogging: add value to information. To justify his bandwidth, the blogger must create, discover, or improve knowledge. And so I am faced with a problem. Clearly, today's post must be about yesterday's NASA love triangle fiasco. The problem is that the story already exists, everyone already knows it, and, definitionally, one cannot improve on the most awesome thing that has ever happened.

No, there is no point in going over the details of how Astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak, Navy Captain and mother of three, became the rival of space program engineer Colleen Shipman for the affections of fellow Astronaut Bill Oefelein. Nor how, after learning that Shipman would take a commercial flight from Houston to Orlando, Nowak drove the 850 miles to intercept her, wearing a diaper to avoid bathroom breaks. Nor... no wait, must go over that one: wearing a diaper.

And there's no need to describe how Nowak, sporting a wig and trench coat, pepper-sprayed Shipman in the Blue Satellite Parking lot of Orlando International Airport. Nor how police found Nowak stuffing the wig, trench coat and a BB gun into a trash can, while carrying a duffle bag that contained $600, a brand-new steel mallet and buck knife, and "3-4 feet of rubber tubing." Nor that Nowak had apparently ridden a shuttle from the airport's LaQuinta Inn, where police would later search her car and discover latex gloves, Shipman's itinerary as printed from Oefelein's computer, detailed maps of the airport grounds, and a list of items including the wig, the knife, and something called "ammo 9."

What can I possibly add to this? Oh sure, there's the obvious "flight risk" joke, which I thought myself pretty clever to have come up with until Jay Leno used it last night.

At least I can be helpful and provide you with links to the important documents: the initial charging affidavit, the second charging affidavit (not thinking the attempted murder is going to stick, guys), and Shipman's affidavit in support of her application for a protective order.

And, for what it's worth, a few observations: First, this story is made all the better by the fact that its players are not just among the scores of "Astronauts" that NASA trains but never puts in space. Nowak flew on Discovery last July and is considered an expert in operating the shuttle's robot arm, and Oefelein piloted the same orbiter just two months ago. Fewer than 500 human beings have ever flown in space, and two of them are involved in a love triangle that necessitated the use of rubber tubing, a steel mallet, and the LaQuinta Inn airport shuttle.

Second, the common denominator in all sensational crime seems to be poor problem-solving skills. Take Scott Peterson's problems, for example: failing marriage, affairs, mounting debt. Good problem-solving skills solution: get a divorce, declare bankruptcy. Scott's solution: tell new girlfriend he was a globe-trotting widower, kill Lacy two weeks later and dump her body in the Berkely Marina during a Christmas Eve "fishing trip," then phone new girlfriend from New Year's Eve candle-light vigil for missing wife, claiming to be in Paris. I can't say what would have been the best solution to the Nowak/Shipman rivalry, but I'm guessing it didn't involve diapers.

Third, speaking of diapers, I might point out that Nowak benefited from years of NASA research into adult waste collection garments. The story of space flight is in many ways the story of human excrement containment engineering. When Grissom and Young blew the hatch after a week in space on the first Gemini capsule, a rescue diver actually passed out from the stench. But today, an Astronaut can drive non-stop from Houston to Orlando swaddled in odor-free absorbency.

Finally, how cool must it have been for Officer William Becton, no doubt used to filling out "unemployed" or the like on his charging affidavit forms, to type in the following:

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it amazing? A story like this would have been utterly unremarkable except for 1) the bit about the diaper and 2) the fact that they were ASTRONAUTS.
    PS: nice value-added delivery! All I could muster up on my humble bloglet was a link to one guy's theory on the matter.


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