My wife and I were discussing the case of Lisa Marie Nowak, the highly accomplished NASA astronautess, Naval Academy graduate (aeronautical engineering), "devoted" mother of three, and wife of 19 years' standing to the father of those children. Everybody who knew her had nothing but good things to say. She was pretty, perky, chirpy, charming, disciplined, devoted and just keep on going from there.
Nowak in happier days, before trading the orange space suit for the prison jump version:
But according to Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, the lovely Lisa had been stalking her "for two months before attacking her in a parking lot at Orlando International Airport Monday morning..."
"What we have is a desperate woman who wanted to have a conversation with the other woman," Nowak's attorney Donald Lykkebak said in court.
But what the police say is that "Nowak intended to kill Shipman, 30, when she bought a knife, BB Gun, and other supplies, got in her car in Houston, and made the 12-hour drive to Orlando, wearing diapers so she would not have to stop along the way."
Talk about pissed off. There were a total of two diapers involved, which shows that, whatever stress she was under, her discipline remained intact.
Nowak, before and after wearing diapers:
It turns out that Nowak (according to Shipman) "followed her from the Orlando International Airport terminal to the blue satellite parking lot. Nowak approached Shipman's car and pounded on the window."
My wife and I found this interesting because we've parked our car in that very lot many times. It was always so peaceful.
"I opened my window about 2 [inches] and she sprayed me with a mace or pepper spray. I threw the car in gear and drove to the parking office, where we called the police," she wrote. She said the spray burned her "head, face, eyes, nose and left hand and forearm."
In a statement to police, Shipman wrote: "I started to cry a little and rubbed my eyes with my hand. My eyes started to burn to the point that I couldn't keep them open. They watered and my nose started running."
Okay, that accounted for the one of the supplies - which included "a wig, trench coat, make-up, trash bags, knife and what appeared to be 'ammo 9'" - but I was still wondering what the BB gun was for. (When I was a kid, I watched another kid kill a robin with one. It took a long time, and lots of BB's.)
Nowak was initially granted a $15,500 bail, but that was later revoked when the police upped the charges from mere attempted kidnapping to attempted first degree murder. Bail was subsequently set at $25,500, and she was fitted with "a GPS ankle monitor with a built-in cell phone that will report where she is anywhere in the world.
" 'We're going to get notified in 5 to 10 minutes at most if she goes into the exclusion zone,' said Glen Rothbart of Court Programs Inc. in Orlando, which operates the GPS system. 'We'll track her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.'"
The 'exclusion zone' turns out to be anywhere east of Orlando, especially Patrick Air Force Base (I once played golf there, a really tough course with an incessant wind coming off the ocean) where Capt. Shipman works, and the Kennedy Space Center, where rocket ships and jet planes could make the exclusion zone quite expansive indeed.
"Bail bondsman John 'The Baron' Von Achen, a fixture in Orlando courts for 25 years, posted Nowak's $25,500 bail after being contacted by her relatives in Maryland.
"'Yeah, absolutely she's a good risk,' he said, 'as long as she doesn't try to leave the planet.'"
All right, he didn't say that last part.
The motivation for the behavior of the mother of 3 and wife of 19 years apparently revolves around a love interest shared by her and Capt. Shipman, although the details remain vague. That 'interest' is, of course, a male astronaut. Mrs. Nowak had recently separated from her husband. We may assume that things weren't so nice in Niceville.
"Still," I said to my wife, "she's so...motivated and motherly, vivacious and violent, etc. Why would she do all this over a man? What could have brought it on?"
"Agent Space," she said.
"You know, like Agent Orange in Vietnam. She got exposed to something. Why do you think they wear those dive suits with helmets and air-packs? They don't know what's out there. It's like the hot zone."
It's true. We tend to think of space as a sterile environment, so airless and cold is it. If brine shrimp can live in the Great Salt Lake, and anaerobic bacteria in an oxygenless pool of sulphur, who knows what can live in a vacuum.
"So, you mean like some kind of Andromeda Strain that turns you from an astronaut into an astronut."
"Could be," she said. "All I know is, men can make you crazy, but not that crazy."