Tue, Feb 27, 2007
Nowak Incident Sheds Light On 2001 Checklist
Astronaut Lisa Nowak's recent
apparent breakdown has prompted some to wonder what would happen
if a similar type of behavioral problem occurred in
space. As Aero-News reported, Nowak
was arrested this month on charges she planned to kidnap the woman
she regarded as a threat to a relationship.
NASA does, indeed, have written procedures for situations
involving a psychotic astronaut in space.
According to the Associated Press, should an astronaut exhibit
behaviors that threaten themselves or someone else, crew members
should "bind the wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down
with a bungee cord and inject tranquilizers if necessary." The
instructions go on to say, "Talk with the patient while you are
restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using
a restraint to ensure that he is safe."
NASA spokesman James Hartsfield told the AP a flight surgeon on
the ground, NASA and the commander in space would decide whether to
abort the flight. The group would also decide whether to send the
astronaut home, if the incident occurred on the International Space
Dr. Patricia Santy, a former NASA psychiatrist and author of the
book "Choosing the Right Stuff," said there are no good studies of
astronauts' stress levels or how they adapt psychologically to
"What astronaut is going to tell you they're feeling homicidal?"
she asked. "They're very conscious that if they say the wrong thing
they could get grounded."
The procedural checklist for the space station was drawn up in
2001, and also includes procedures for dealing with medical
situations. New procedures have been drawn up for the space shuttle
but have not been released yet, according to Hartsfield, pending
reviews by NASA attorneys.
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