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Panel Finds Astronauts Flew While Intoxicated

When and who?

Jul 26, 2007

By Frank Morring, Jr./Aviation Week & Space Technology

A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest 
has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after 
flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they 
posed a flight-safety risk.

The panel, also reported "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch, 
within the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule applied to NASA flight 
crew members.

A NASA spokesman declined comment on the findings, which were obtained by 
Aviation Week & Space Technology. The spokesman said a press conference has 
tentatively been scheduled for Friday afternoon on the issue. At the direction 
of Administrator Michael Griffin, NASA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard S. 
Williams set up the panel to review astronaut medical and psychological 
screening after Nowak was arrested in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 5 on charges of 
attempted murder and attempted kidnapping for allegedly stalking and 
threatening a woman who was dating another astronaut. The attempted murder 
charge was subsequently dropped.

The panel is composed of military and civilian government physicians, 
psychologists, lawyers, safety experts and astronauts under the chairmanship of 
U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Bachmann, dean of the Air Force School of Aerospace 
Medicine. Panel members visited Johnson Space Center in April to gather 
information from flight surgeons and the astronaut office on astronaut health 
screening. A panel member said Wednesday the report was still in draft form, 
and probably would be released in August. Separately, Griffin ordered JSC 
Director Mike Coats to review intake and on-going psychological screening for 
astronaut candidates and astronauts, and to recommend changes if necessary.

Griffin also directed Coats, himself a former astronaut, to "determine whether 
there were any areas of concern - any leading indicators we might have picked 
up on, based on Lisa Nowak's dealings with other astronauts or NASA employees," 
in the words of Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

The Bachmann panel report apparently does not deal directly with Nowak or 
mention any other astronaut by name. Coats' findings also will be part of the 
press conference on Friday, according to the agency spokesman.

The link.


Luc Leblanc VE2DWE
Skype VE2DWE


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