HOUSTON – The space shuttle pilot at the center of a bizarre love triangle that included a former astronaut who now faces attempted kidnapping charges is leaving the space agency, NASA said Friday.
Cmdr. Bill Oefelein will leave NASA on June 1, nearly four months after authorities believe his cooled relationship with Lisa Nowak led her to drive 900 miles from Houston to Florida and confront her romantic rival.
NASA requested a reassignment, and the Navy agreed, said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Doug Gabos. The Navy expects to assign Oefelein to the Naval Network Warfare Command in Norfolk, Va., where he will work in the field of satellite communications. Oefelein will likely report for duty in July, Gabos said.
Spokesman Jim Rostohar declined to comment on the reason behind Oefelein's reassignment.
"NASA has determined that Cmdr. Oefelein's detail is no longer required for the purposes it was originally granted," Rostohar said.
A call to Oefelein's home phone was unanswered Friday.
Oefelein, 42, was previously in a relationship with Nowak, a Navy captain who has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an attack on Oefelein's girlfriend, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, at the Orlando, Fla., airport on Feb. 5.
Police say Nowak, who grew up in Rockville, Md., raced through five states to confront Shipman, wearing an astronaut diaper so that she would not have to stop.
Nowak, 44, was charged with attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault and battery. Oefelein told detectives he had a two-year relationship with Nowak but ended it some time after he started a relationship with Shipman.
NASA released Nowak from the astronaut corps a month after her arrest. She is now working at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
Oefelein was a pilot during the last shuttle mission in December, which continued construction of the international space center. He has since been working in the astronaut office, supporting the shuttle program, Rostohar said.