This is not a space law case

It's a criminal law matter.

And yes, it's also a space-laced psychiatric melodrama, not to mention media sensation of let's just say cosmic proportions, with all the right stuff for an "over-the-moon" "galactic love triangle" "astronauts gone wild," "rocketeers behaving badly" (pick your funny headline) bizarre reality show replacement, cable TV movie, and sizzling Court TV trial, but it is not a space law case.

(However I do want to congratulate the smart defense counsel who secured release for the accused flygirl by successfully arguing shuttle astronaut Lisa Nowak is not a flight risk.)

(And it is more than just a bit ironic that Ms. Nowak is perhaps the only accused person in history to wear a court-ordered GPS anklet who at least theoretically could have been on the space mission that launched the GPS satellite that is curtailing her freedom and monitoring her whereabouts. And, should the law-enforcing satellite malfunction, being trained in the robotic arm I imagine our unfortunate astronaut defendant would be happy to rocket back to space and do repairs.)

In any case, I'll let the crime law blogs start sorting this all out. (And by the way, as a naval officer, Captain Nowak's situation appears to be a military personnel matter as well.)

Meanwhile, what about NASA? Apart from the serious criminal charges against astronaut Nowak, how may the defendant's employer address concerns about any responsibilty it may bear for its role in this astro-passion play? So far our shocked and I presume very embarrassed space agency issued its
first statement about this remarkable case just yesterday evening (prompting Keith Cowing to say of the short press release he was "certain that a dozen lawyers poured over it all day"). NASA said it was "deeply saddened" by the matter and confirmed Nowak is "officially on 30-day leave and has been removed from flight status and all mission-related activities."

Then, at a news conference today NASA second in command Shana Dale (a lawyer herself) said the space agency will review criteria for screening astronauts and evaluating them throughout their career. She confirmed NASA will review procedures to determine if any changes need to be made. Here is the
CNN video of Shana's briefing.

By the way, Court TV has an online poll which asks respondents if they think NASA is responsible for not properly screening astronaut Lisa Nowak -- last I checked, 22.43% said yes, while a hefty 77.57% said no.

Going forward, this sort of criminal activity could one day happen, yes, in space. No matter the reason this particular astronaut ultimately became untethered, as one
NASA Watch reader pondered, "What if she wasn't caught and she headed for a 6 month space station mission with a man, another heroine, a steel mallet, a knife, and some garbage bags?" Well? Cherchez la humans. Of course, we don't yet have a body of criminal space law precedent. But yes, in that case, quick, call a space lawyer.

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