Saturday, October 3, 2009

Love Emails Of The Psycho Astranaut Are Released

Orbiting Earth at 17,500 mph may be considered enough to get anyone's pulse racing. But Bill Oefelein, the pilot of the space shuttle Discovery, had an added reason to be thrilled as he cruised 220 miles above the planet.

As he scrolled through his e-mail inbox, packed with complex instructions from Nasa controllers and memos about navigational coordinates, one e-mail in particular, entitled "I need a rub down", may have caught his eye more than most.

Sent by his new girlfriend, Colleen Shipman, an air force captain he had met just before his 13-day space mission last December, it raised the promise of a warm welcome when he returned home.

"Will have to control myself when I see you. First urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground and love the hell out of you. Am anxious to get you alone," Ms Shipman, 30, wrote.

The steamy e-mail — and an admission by Mr Oefelein, 41, that he had two-timed her with fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak — was among documents released yesterday by prosecutors investigating how the love triangle prompted a showdown that has left Ms Nowak, 43, facing a potential life sentence. The mother of three was arrested in Orlando, Florida, on February 5 after driving nearly 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her Texas home — wearing a nappy to save delays en route — to attack Ms Shipman.

She was armed with pepper spray, an air gun, a knife and a steel mallet.

The papers reveal that Ms Nowak had been divorcing her husband of 19 years to be with her lover, but had gone off the rails after Mr Oefelein left her in early January. She found Ms Shipman's love notes on his computer during an apparent snooping session at his apartment, to which she had a key. Printouts from Mr Oefelein's inbox were discovered in Ms Nowak's car after her arrest.

Other documents released include a police statement in which Mr Oefelein admitted that a two-year affair with Ms Nowak had begun in 2004, a year before he divorced his wife of 15 years, and ended two months after he started dating Ms Shipman last November.

He claimed that the relationship with Ms Nowak had ended amicably early in January. Days before the attack Ms Nowak wished Mr Oefelein a "nice weekend", knowing that he was going to spend it with Ms Shipman, he claimed.

But other documents found in Ms Nowak's car suggest that she was still infatuated. In a letter to Mr Oefelein's mother, Billye, Ms Nowak raved: "Bill is absolutely the best person I've ever known and I love him more than I know possible."

Ms Shipman told police that she had felt uncomfortable over her boyfriend's continuing closeness to Ms Nowak. Her fears were confirmed one night, she said, when "we were laying in bed and he called me Lisa". Ms Nowak, who is on bail, has been charged with attempted kidnap and burglary with assault. She is on 30 days' forced leave from Nasa, which expires tomorrow and is expected to be renewed.

The scandal is said to have dashed Mr Oefelein's chances of another space mission. Even before the incident, he wrote in an e-mail to Ms Shipman that while Nasa had plans to return man to the Moon, hopes of him being involved were scant.

"Maybe I will be able to clean the toilets of those so fortunate to be chosen," he lamented.

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