Image: Lisa Nowak
Red Huber  /  AP file
A Navy board of inquiry has recommended a less-than-honorable discharge and a reduction in rank for former astronaut Lisa Nowak, seen here during a 2007 court hearing in Orlando, Fla.
Image: Jim Miklasszewski
By Jim Miklaszewski Chief Pentagon correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/19/2010 9:18:01 PM ET 2010-08-20T01:18:01

A Navy board of inquiry has recommended that former astronaut Lisa Nowak be separated from the Navy with a less-than-honorable discharge and be busted down in rank from captain to commander.

Nowak, who flew on a space shuttle mission in 2006, became notorious in February 2007 after making a 900-mile drive from Texas to Florida to confront a supposed rival in a love triangle also involving space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. The initial police reports suggested that Nowak wore a diaper during the trip to avoid time-consuming bathroom stops, but she denied those reports.

Nowak's assignment to NASA as a naval officer was terminated soon after her arrest, and she was reassigned to a naval air station in Texas during her legal proceedings. Last November, she pleaded guilty to charges of felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. Nowak was given a year's probation on the civilian criminal convictions.

The Navy conducted a hearing on Nowak's case on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. Portions of the hearing were closed to the public for testimony on Nowak's mental health, Navy officials said.

The board of inquiry will forward its recommendation to Navy Secretary Ray Maybus, who will make the final decision on Nowak's punishment.

The reduction in rank would reduce any Navy retirement benefits due Nowak.

Oefelein, meanwhile, left the astronaut corps and returned to Navy duty himself in May 2007. He retired from the Navy the following year. Oefelein and Nowak's romantic rival, Colleen Shipman, announced their engagement in 2009. At last report, they were operating a freelance writing and photography business in Alaska.

This report includes information from msnbc.com.

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