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E-mails document astronaut love triangle

Newly released NASA e-mails hint at something more than a professional relationship between former astronaut Lisa Nowak and a space shuttle pilot.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Newly released NASA e-mails hint at something more than a professional relationship between former astronaut Lisa Nowak and a space shuttle pilot.

But the exchanges between Nowak and astronaut William Oefelein aren't nearly as saucy as the ones between him and the romantic rival Nowak is accused of trying to kidnap.

On Wednesday, the space agency released more than 200 pages of messages involving the case in response to a public records request from the media.

Nowak and Oefelein discussed mostly routine things like schedules, technical issues about the shuttle and astronaut insurance in e-mails sent between mid-2004 and January 2007, a month before her arrest on allegations she tried to abduct Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman.

But some messages between Oefelein and Shipman were overtly flirty. He begins a message in early 2007 "Hey cutie" and signs it "Love you." In writing about an upcoming trip, he says: "They want your size for the arctic gear...I think I can figure that out — sized sexy and athletic."

He adds a note about plans to get a hotel, saying that "Due to noise requirements" he didn't want to stay with his parents during a trip, as he usually does, because "we need some 'privacy'!!!!"

The early e-mails between Nowak and Oefelein are mostly formal, but some of the later ones have a friendlier tone. The two lived in the Houston area and trained together, but never flew into space together.

Nowak offers to get Oefelein lunch, invites him to a Houston Astros baseball game being attended by other astronauts, asks for advice on a speaking engagement, asks for a ride to a rodeo and discusses plans to attend a party.

Going to the party?
In January 2007, Oefelein forwarded Nowak an e-mail about a party with a short note, "Going to this?"

She responds a minute later in shorthand: "only if u r!"

The next month, authorities say, Nowak drove from Texas to Florida and confronted Shipman at an Orlando airport. Nowak is accused of trying to get into Shipman's car and attacking her with pepper spray. Authorities found maps to Shipman's home, garbage bags, latex gloves and some soiled toddler-sized diapers in Nowak's car. She was also carrying a bag with a steel mallet, knife, rubber tubing and a BB gun resembling a 9 mm handgun. Shipman was able to drive away.

Nowak is charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary with assault. She has pleaded not guilty, though her attorney has filed notice of intent to use an insanity defense.

Nowak's lawyer, Don Kykkeback, accused NASA late Thursday of picking and choosing which messages it released.

"These e-mails released by NASA are deceptively incomplete as they selectively omitted any e-mail NASA considered personal," he said through Nowak spokeswoman Marti Mackenzie. "They have little if anything to do with Lisa Nowak's case."

The Associated Press could not reach Oefelein for comment. A number listed in his name near the Johnson Space Center in Houston had been disconnected.