Astronaut fired a month after kidnap attempt

NASA on Wednesday fired a female US astronaut who made national headlines when she was arrested for driving halfway across the country in a diaper to confront a love rival.

"US Navy Captain Lisa Nowak's detail as a NASA astronaut has been terminated, effective March 8, by mutual agreement between NASA and the US Navy," NASA said in a statement.

"NASA requested an end to the detail because the agency lacks the administrative means to deal appropriately with the criminal charges pending against Nowak."

Friday, Nowak was charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted burglary and battery, for confronting the girlfriend of another astronaut in February.

After Nowak, 43, and a mother of three, was arrested in Florida, police said there was "probable cause" to believe she had intended to murder her alleged romantic rival, but she was not charged with attempted murder.

"NASA's decision to terminate Nowak's detail does not reflect any position by NASA on the criminal charges pending in Florida," the agency said.

Police said Nowak drove more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) from Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida to attack Colleen Shipman, wearing a diaper so she would not have to take bathroom breaks.

Nowak allegedly thought Shipman, an Air Force captain, shared her romantic interest in 41-year-old shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.

Nowak wore a wig and trench coat when she approached Shipman's car at Orlando's airport and then doused her with pepper spray, according to police.

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Police found a steel mallet, a serrated knife and a loaded pellet gun in Shipman's car.

Nowak told police she only planned to "scare" Shipman into talking about her relationship with Oefelein, and had no intention of harming her.

She said her relationship with Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to a police affidavit.

Nowak was released on a 25,500-dollar bond two days after her arrest.

The case has captivated US media, earning headlines such as "Astronaughty," "Space Oddity" "Lust in Space" and "Astronut."

A US Navy officer since 1987, Nowak trained for two years as an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center in Houston from 1996.

She worked in Mission Control as prime communicator with orbiting crews and flew as a mission specialist on the shuttle Discovery's July 4-17 mission to the International Space Station.

US media quoted court documents released this week that show Nowak began having an affair with Oefelein about three years ago, in 2004, when both were married.

Oefelein, according to the court documents, began a separate relationship with Shipman last December and informed Nowak of his new love interest in January.

He told police she seemed to take the news well but a letter found in Nowak's car when she was arrested last month indicates she was set on continuing her relationship with the space shuttle pilot and was seeking a divorce for that purpose.

Copies of several romantic e-mails between Oefelein and Shipman were also found in Nowak's car, media reported.

One e-mail sent by Shipman to Oefelein in December, when he was aboard shuttle Discovery says: "Will have to control myself when I see you. First urge will be to rip your clothes off..."

Nowak apparently downloaded the e-mails from Oefelein's home computer, as she had a key to his apartment.

Her family said in a statement that the astronaut had recently separated from her husband after 19 years of marriage.

Oefelein, who according to his NASA biography has two children and is reportedly divorced, served as pilot on the Discovery's December 9-22, 2006 mission to the ISS.