Tuesday, February 06, 2007

NASA still has not addressed the fundamental problem with long duration space missions


And the result is sitting in the Orange County Florida Jail. NASA has continually refused to address the issue of the sexual dynamics of being on long duration missions with a mixed gender crew, preferring instead to ignore the elephant in the room. Men and women, when living in such close proximity cannot resist emotional entanglement. Mrs. Nowak, a married mother of three was emotionally involved with another astronaut named Bill Oefelein whom she had trained with. When Oefelein began seeing an Air Force Captain by the name of Colleen Shipman, Nowak felt the need to attempt to abduct and assault her.

It is time for NASA to stop burying it's head in the sand and realize that astronauts are people first and foremost and people have urges. Those urges are going to be directed at other crew members because on long duration missions, they won't have any other outlet available. That will give rise to jealousy, lust, anger, and all the other emotions that could doom a long duration mission. There will also be the small issue of birth control. Pregnancy in space is no laughing matter. The radiation dose alone would most likely lead to severe birth defects. Not to mention the danger of giving birth far from any hospital with things like incubators, ventilators, anesthesia, whole blood, etc.

Sex in space will happen, if it has not already. NASA needs to stop being prudes about it and recognize that it will be a fact of life. And instead start focusing on the impact on crew dynamics. Perhaps married couples should be chosen for long duration flights, or singles that are sexually and emotionally compatible, not just to work together but as a married couple.

5 Comments:

Blogger Shreela said...

We've heard this story ALL day long it seems. We wondered about NASA's psych screening and drug testing. Then on KHOU's 10pm news, they said NASA doesn't do psych testing!

WHAT? Either we mis-heard that, or KHOU didn't report that properly, or NASA is naive (or are WE naive in thinking that astronauts should have psych evals?)

I feel for her family, and also for the other astronauts, because I'm sure this will have long-reaching effects on them too.

Since I listened to most of this on talk radio, I'm unsure about a few things: was the 'other' man married? And, did she make any stops on the way to the Orlando airport (the shows mentioned she did, but they might have been making jokes)?

February 07, 2007 2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As this sad saga continues to unfold, I can't help but feel great sorrow and compassion for Mrs. Nowak. Is she the ultimate example of a woman scorned? Or does her plight exemplify an obsession run amok? Talk radio hosts cite her case as an example of the downward spiral of failed marriages. 19-years of marriage and this is the fallout? Who really knows what goes on behind closed doors? I fear for her future and I fear for her mental health. It's all just too unbearable, and it's awful beyond words that this woman has lost her right to privacy. And she took her family down with her....

Tragic.

February 09, 2007 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It almost sounds like you're saying it's inevitable that this happened because NASA isn't paying attention to people's sexual urges. How many people pack a knife, trash bags, and pepper spray in their car and set out to attack another person? That's not about sexual urges, that's about somebody that's deranged. Also, I think the sympathy for Mrs. Nowak should be directed instead toward those who have been harmed by her actions. I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.

February 12, 2007 2:44 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

In a way, I am. I am not absolving her of any culpability, you are NEVER not liable for your own actions as far as I'm concerned. But the point I'm trying to make is that she left her husband for a man she spent days with training in close quarters. The psychological profile chosen for astronauts are people who can block out the rest of the world and focus at the task at hand. They are highly organized and task oriented, and extremely resourceful. That also happens to be borderline obsessive-compulsive. In the past, NASA's response to adverse crew dynamics has been "you are all professionals, suck it up and do the job!". That might cut it when you are only going to have to deal with the person for a few days or a week or two. But when you start doing missions that are months or years long, you are going to find that crew dynamics plays a VITAL role in the success or failure of a mission. In a spacecraft there is no where you can go to get away from the person. Even married couples need time away from each other from time to time. This is going to be a BIG problem and it is one that NASA so far has done little to address.

February 12, 2007 7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that the situation would have been any different had she attended medical school instead of working for NASA. Both require a lot time away from home and family, high stress environments, probably a high % of people with inflated egos & feelings of entitlement, etc. She made a choice, and I think NASA has very little to do with it. It reminds me of the Clara Harris situation. She felt betrayed so she killed her husband. Most normal folks, while feeling angry and devastated over real (or perceived) betrayal, would never physically harm someone. In my opinion, that's a personality disorder not a work related issue.

February 13, 2007 6:26 PM  

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