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Sun, Apr 01, 2007

NASA Adds Padded Airlock, Straight Jacket To Shuttle Equipment Complement

Agency Hopes To Mitigate Future Nowak-Factor Risk

ANN 04.01.07 SPECIAL EDITION: An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, to eliminate the possibility of an orbital mental breakdown calamity, and another Lisa Nowak-style public relations nightmare for NASA.

In a memo leaked to ANN by a NASA director close to the operation, NASA announced engineers are using the weather-damage-caused delay to the upcoming flight of the shuttle Atlantis -- now scheduled for mid-May and the earliest -- to equip the orbiter with a padded airlock, as well as a emergency straightjacket to eliminate risk from the admittedly-improbable chance of extreme behavior of an astronaut onboard the shuttle.

Similar to the thousands of NASA shuttle checklists, a new checklist was also developed should an onboard astronaut exhibit actions that could impede and disrupt onboard activities and pose a danger to the crew and the mission.

According to psychologists, an adult in the US may be committed involuntarily to a psychiatric institution if a police officer judges the person to be insane; if a psychiatrist says the person presents a danger to self or others; if relatives agree on commitment; if the person is always intoxicated; if the person hears voices.

Changes to what is known as DWM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) in psychology circles have been implemented by NASA, so an adult does not have to actual BE in the US, but be a US citizen (let's face it, outer space isn't in the US); the shuttle chief would then act in the law enforcement capacity (unless he or she is the one to be moved to the padded airlock. In that case, it would be the next in command -- think "Caine Mutiny.").

Additionally, an on-ground NASA psychologist would have input into the decision that an astronaut is a danger to him or herself or others; relatives would have input, but a decision would not be made based on that input ("He's such a nice boy."); if the person is "always intoxicated," would refer to alcohol and not oxygen; hearing voices would apply to voices heard away from the headset and eliminate voices from Shuttle colleagues.

Said the Shuttle Program Manager (who, obviously, asked that his identity be concealed), the installation of the padded airlock and the addition of a straight jacket to the items on board are a positive benefit to the mission at minimal cost to the program.

He would not elaborate as to the procedures that would be followed in case the improbable did happen, and an astronaut found themselves straightjacketed in the padded airlock.



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