Just what is going on at NASA? Until recently, most of us did not have much of a clue. Except on those tragic occasions such as when a space shuttle blows up, we mostly ignore the space program. We know what to expect. A few times a year, on a good year, NASA sends a space shuttle into orbit. It usually visits the International Space Station and while there, the astronauts typically do some heavy construction. Astronauts do all sorts of other research that we secretly suspect could be done for far less on Earth. We are also vaguely aware that NASA sends these neat unmanned satellites to distant places in our solar system. Only a few of us are aware that President Bush wants us to send men back to the moon, this time to live permanently, and to eventually colonize Mars. The NASA scuttlebutt is that in 2009, when presumably we get a Democratic president, most of these grandiose ideas will be killed, or scaled back.
All this is extremely interesting if you are a NASA insider. However, most of us do not care. The space program is, like, so 20th century! For us to pay attention to NASA it has to pander to concerns that are earthbound. So no doubt you did tune in when the bizarre and (we can accurately proclaim) other worldly story of now ex astronaut Lisa M. Nowak exploded in February. She was unceremoniously fired by NASA yesterday because she has been charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault for what looks like a premeditated attack on fellow astronaut and Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. Shipman had the audacity to get romantically involved with the same man with the right stuff that she wanted. He would be astronaut William A. Oefelein, a Navy commander and shuttle commander.
Despite being a woman astronaut on the hoof, the story doubtless would have received much less press had it not been for the bizarre means by which Nowak conducted her alleged assault. She drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, wearing an adult diaper all the way, because she could not be bothered to stop for bathroom breaks. She allegedly assaulted Shipman in an airport parking lot after following her to her car in an airport shuttle bus. She cleverly disguised herself in a trench coat and red wig and then allegedly tried to spray a chemical into her car. Shipman, naturally, wondered why this crazy chick with the bad wig was going postal at her, sped away and reported her to the authorities. She was arrested shortly thereafter.
Now Nowak joins a singular group of being the only astronaut ever fired, as well as the first to be charged with a felony. Instead of the right stuff, she showed that sadly an astronaut could have the wrong stuff. For the moment, she has returned to work for the U.S. Navy. Since she was technically on loan to NASA, the Navy will have to figure out whether Nowak, a naval officer, will also have to face military charges after she goes to trial for her alleged felonious conduct.
Things have not been tidy lately in Nowak’s life. She recently separated from her husband of 19 years, allegedly because she wanted to pursue Oefelein. She is the mother of three. Her relationship with Oefelein, until he dumped her in January for Shipman (who is about ten years younger than Nowak) was described as somewhere between more than friends but less than lovers. Maybe they were just f*** buddies.
Oefelein and Nowak never flew in the space shuttle together. After a ten year wait, Nowak finally got her opportunity to travel into space last July in STS 121. Shipman, who traveled into space on a recent shuttle mission, spent some of her free time in orbit steaming up the shuttle’s windows. Apparently, she and Oefelein were busy sending each other erotic emails. “First urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground and love the hell out of you,” Oefelein, a divorcee, reputedly emailed to Shipman. Somehow, Nowak got copies of the emails. They were found in her possession after her tawdry airport parking lot encounter.
Yes, things look a bit grim for Nowak at the moment. Nevertheless, I predict that all’s well that ends well. We live in America, after all, where capitalism is our state religion. Nowak will soon learn that there is money to be made in scandal. Like Monica Lewinski, her tawdry story is good for at least six figures when she sells the TV and movie rights. There is also money in the book she will be encouraged to write. In it doubtless we will learn about a side of NASA that its public affairs office would prefer to keep under wraps. Oefelein should consider the advantages of selling out too. With luck we will get dueling made for TV movies, much like the many we got after the Joey Buttafuoco / Amy Fisher mess of the early 1990s. (I suspect that it did much to keep CNN solvent.) Perhaps like Monica, Lisa will eventually retail her own line of clothes. I suspect they are more likely to appear at a Marshalls than at a Nieman Marcus.
So cheer up, Lisa. That ankle-monitoring bracelet may be inconvenient right now. The time you might spend in prison and probation may not be fun. Your soon to be ex-husband will take care of the kids. Prison time will give you plenty of time for contemplation. Do yourself a favor, bring a journal, and write it all down. Let it all out, gal! It would be best though to write it all down now, while it is all fresh and while you can command the highest fees for rights to your “exclusive story”. Get yourself an agent, for you will need one. Your story will have legs for many years, particularly if you are wise enough to dole out little details to the media regularly. Eventually, if you do your marketing right, you will find it pays to discover redemption.
Here is what I recommend. Once released from prison, spend a year working for some hopelessly honorable charity like Goodwill. Make sure your agent gets the word out to the press. You want some reporter coming by at least once a week taking pictures and interviewing you about how you have changed. Start a charity that helps women cope with marital pain and suffering. Your career may now be earthbound instead of pointed toward the heavens, but it can now be much more materially rewarding than it has been to date. Think of this incident as a golden opportunity, not necessarily to learn any karmic lessons, but to repackage yourself. You are now Brand Nowak. If you can, start doing the talk show circuit. Confess your deeds on Oprah, if possible.
By the way, congratulations on getting into space. You are one of a select group to get into space, but it is also a group that keeps expanding. It looks like within a dozen years many of us with spare piles of cash will be able to get into outer space too. So it is unlikely that when they write your obituary your one trip into space will even be mentioned. Now, thanks to your moment of wigging out in such a spectacular and unforgettable fashion, you have achieved something many of us lust for but never achieve: immortality.
I may spend the rest of my life blogging and putting out my thoughts to the universe. Yet with one adult diaper, one crazed 900-mile journey, and one tawdry moment in a parking lot, the name of Lisa Nowak will live forever. You can use the money coming your way to put your children into elite colleges and universities – try doing that on an astronaut’s salary! You will retire early and if you invest your money wisely, perhaps it will be on your own private island. If you market yourself right, you will find plenty of men like Oefelein. Heck, once he discovers your new income potential, he may be ringing you up. Won’t that get the tabloids going! However, this can your only happen if you act quickly and engage America’s bottomless prurient interests.
Get moving, girl.