Published July 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Florida — A former astronaut banished from NASA after she confronted a romantic rival in a bizarre episode is being expelled from the Navy, officials said Thursday.
Capt. Lisa Nowak will retire with an "other than honorable" discharge and her pay grade will be knocked down one rank, Assistant Secretary of Navy Juan Garcia said in a statement.
Nowak's conduct "fell well short" of what is expected of Navy officers and she "demonstrated a complete disregard for the well-being of a fellow service member," Garcia said.
Nowak was accused of confronting Colleen Shipman in the parking lot of the Orlando International Airport in February 2007 after driving from Houston.
Nowak had diapers in the car, but Nowak disputed that she wore the diapers. Shipman, an Air Force captain, had begun dating Nowak's love interest, former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.
Police say Nowak sprayed pepper spray into Shipman's car. Nowak's attorney says the pepper spray never reached Shipman.
Nowak was sentenced in 2009 to a year of probation in the altercation after pleading guilty to burglary charges.
Since her dismissal from the astronaut corps, Nowak has been working at the Chief of Naval Air Training station in Corpus Christi, Texas. She will be demoted to commander when her retirement takes effect Sept. 1.
The "other than honorable" discharge may affect veterans' benefits for Nowak, who has been in the Navy for 20 years. A call to her mobile phone was not returned.
The decision by the Navy came after a board of inquiry heard testimony last year.
"Our goal is to make the right decision," said Lt. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman. "There was a lot of material associated with this case ... and the material was fully reviewed ... and that takes time."