Report Says Astronauts Drank Alcohol Heavily Before Launch

A group of NASA astronauts consumed a heavy amount of alcohol before launch, according to an independent health panel report.

Aviation Week & Space Technology, a weekly trade journal, reported the finding from the panel on its Web site. The weekly said that the committee 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 alcohol use by astronauts was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule applied to NASA flight crew members, Aviation Week reported. The panel was created following the arrest in February of former space shuttle flier Lisa Nowak, who was implicated in a love triangle

"The obvious answer is no. I've never had any incidence of that," a NASA official said when asked if the agency has ever had an experience with a drunken astronaut.

On Thursday afternoon, a media representative at Johnson Space Center in Houston said no one was answering any questions on the matter. NASA has scheduled a news conference for Friday to release the findings of a pair of reviews into astronauts' health.

"It would be inappropriate to talk about that until the report is released tomorrow. I'll defer all questions on this matter until then," a NASA official said.

Aviation Week said the report — ordered by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin — does not deal directly with Nowak or mention any other astronaut by name.

Nowak is accused of attacking the girlfriend of a fellow astronaut — her romantic rival — with pepper spray in a parking lot at Orlando International Airport. Nowak has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary with assault.

Nowak was dismissed by NASA in March.

Following Nowak's arrest, NASA requested an independent external committee conduct a review of health services available to astronauts. An internal assessment was also undertaken. The results of both reviews will be presented by NASA on Friday.

The panel members include, among others, Air Force experts in aerospace medicine and clinical psychiatry.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.