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Way Out There In the Blue

New documents add more wacky details to astronaut-turned-accused-assailant Lisa Nowak's already wacky case.

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By Tony Dokoupil
Newsweek
Updated: 11:09 a.m. ET July 12, 2007

July 10, 2007 - Lisa Nowak's fate is still in orbit. The space shuttle astronaut was transformed from local hero to intergalactic spectacle last February, following a madcap, 900-mile drive she made to confront—and, police say, assault—a romantic rival with pepper spray. Now, Nowak is back in the news, after the Florida State Attorney’s Office released a transcript of her interview with authorities the day she was apprehended. According to the 72-page document (Part 1, Part 2), she tells police that she only pursued Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman to ask if she was aware of Nowak’s relationship with shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. Both women were involved with Oefelein over the last year: Nowak as a shuttle mate/maybe girlfriend, Shipman as a friend/maybe lover. The transcript doesn’t resolve the nature of the relationships in this mysterious triangle. It does, however, offer a few new elements of intrigue and titillation to the storyline, interspersed with enough fast and fractured dialogue to rival a David Mamet play.

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Some words are blacked out, but the transcribed conversation between Nowak and Orlando Police Det. Chris Becton amounts to a thought-by-thought record of her mind on the night of her arrest. She seems less angry with Shipman than perhaps you’d expect from a women carrying a four-inch knife, a steel mallet, and several lengths of rubber tubing. She even says she’d be open to Oefelein dating both of them, “as long as everybody knows that that’s the case.” Detective Becton comes across as an adept interviewer who carefully employs the whip and the feather—alternately challenging and comforting Nowak, while acknowledging her accomplishments in space. At one point, he tells her that he brought his daughter to see her shuttle launch last July 4. “I’ve got all the video clips, four, five, six video clips. It was the very first shuttle my daughter saw go up,” he says. He also suggests that Nowak see a counselor: “You have a lot going on inside of you. It’s either a lot of pain, a lot of anger, or it’s both. And right now you’re bottling it up a lot.”

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