Lisa Marie Nowak is accused of attacking a woman she thought was her romantic rival

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 06, 2007 11:35 AM

NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak landed in a Florida courtroom Tuesday morning, where she faced charges of attacking and attempting to kidnap a woman she viewed as her romantic rival for the affections of another astronaut.

And now, police are in the process of adding an attempted murder charge, Orange County jail spokesman Allen Moore told the Associated Press later Tuesday.

At her hearing, Nowak, 43, a married mother of a teenage son and twin 5-year-old girls, was ordered to be released on bail under the condition that she not contact her alleged victim, the AP reports.

But Moore said the attempted murder charge meant Nowak would remain in jail: “Even though she satisfied the bail for the other charges, she won’t be released.”

Orlando Police said Nowak – a respected astronaut who flew on the second test flight of a space shuttle after the 2003 Columbia disaster – drove 900 miles from her Texas home to the Orlando airport wearing diapers (so she would not have to stop to relieve herself) to confront Colleen Shipman, whom Nowak believed was a competitor for the affections of Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, 41.

Once in Florida, she donned a disguise, armed herself with a BB gun and pepper spray and followed Shipman to her car in the airport parking lot.

Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, so she got into her car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit. Novak tapped on the window, which Shipman rolled down slightly, and then Novak sprayed pepper spray at her. Shipman drove away to the parking lot booth, where police were called.

Later, police found a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves, an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman’s home address and e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein all in Nowak’s car, the arrest affidavit said.

Nowak and Oefelein were both first-time fliers who trained together but never flew together during separate shuttle missions last year.

Nowak said that her relationship with the unmarried Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to an arrest affidavit. Cops found a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

Nowak apparently believed that Shipman – an engineer assigned to the 45th Launch Support Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base near the Kennedy Space Center – was romantically involved with Oefelein, authorities said. When Nowak learned Shipman was flying from Houston to Orlando, Nowak decided to face her early Monday, said the arrest affidavit.

According to police, Nowak said she only planned to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein.

“If you were just going to talk to someone, I don’t know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray,” Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department told the AP. “It’s just really a very sad case.”