Astronaut Lisa Nowak appears with her attorney Donald Lykkebak, right, before judge Mike Murphy at an Orlando Corrections facility on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. Nowak was making a first appearance on attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery and destruction of evidence and battery charges.Credit: AP Photo/ Redd Huber, Orlando Sentinel, Pool.
The announcement comes as Nowak faces attempted kidnapping charges stemming from a Feb. 5 confrontation with a romantic rival over the affections of space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.
"NASA requested an end to the detail because the agency lacks the administrative means to deal appropriately with the criminal charges facing Nowak, " NASA officials said in a statement.
NASA's civil servant employees can be placed on administrative leave, leave without pay or indefinite suspension, none of which are applicable to the agency's active military personnel and astronauts like Nowak, NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters, of the agency's Johnson Space Center, told SPACE.com. The decision is not a reflection of NASA's belief in Nowak's innocence or guilt, she stressed.
"Our options were to remove her from flight status, which was done, to put her on leave, which was done, and the only other remaining option was to end the detail, " David Mould, a spokesperson at the agency's Washington D.C. headquarters, added.
Nowak, a mother of three, first joined NASA's astronaut ranks in 1996 and made her only spaceflight last July during the space agency's STS-121 shuttle mission to the International Space Station . The space agency placed Nowak on a 30-day leave following her initial arrest, then later removed her from flight status and replaced her Mission Control assignment as spacecraft communicator for the upcoming STS-117 shuttle flight in April.
Police officers in Orlando, Florida arrested Nowak on Feb. 5 after she allegedly drove 900 miles from Houston, Texas - home to NASA's astronaut training grounds at the Johnson Space Center - to confront Colleen Shipman, Oefelein's girlfriend, at the Orlando airport. Police say Nowak wore an adult diaper akin to those used by astronauts to avoid unnecessary stops, donned a wig to confront Shipman and sprayed her with pepper spray. Officers also stated that they found a steel mallet, knife, rubber tubing and pellet gun in Nowak's car.