A review committee gathered in the wake of the Lisa Nowak NASA astronaut love-triangle scandal has revealed that NASA astronauts on at least two occasions “had been so intoxicated prior to flight that flight surgeons and/or fellow astronauts raised concerns to local on-scene leadership regarding flight safety.”
NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale, during a press conference today, said the agency would act immediately to investigate the allegations, none of which she said contained specifics of when or where the infractions occurred. NASA requires astronauts to refrain from drinking alcohol at least 12hr before taking flight, similar to rules for airline pilots.
Nowak was arrested in February with attempted kidnapping of a woman who was dating another astronaut with whom she had a relationship. The trial is set to start in September. Nowak, who NASA has sent back to the US military, has said she is innocent. After the scandal broke, NASA convened a panel of experts to review astronaut screening processes to see if screeners might better determine looming behavioural issues.
The final report, delivered to NASA management in June, contained the alcohol allegations as well as recommendations that will “entail changing deep seated, long standing aspects of astronaut, flight surgeon, and safety cultures regarding alcohol use, code of conduct, acknowledgement of human performance issues, selection , training, evaluation and professional development, communication and privacy.”
The writers went on to say, “Cultural changes such as these will and must disrupt the status quo. While cultural changes are the most difficult to achieve, they are also the most significant and pose the highest risk of human failure in not adequately addressed.”