From Astronaut to Astro-Nut: The Woman Who Tried to Kidnap a U.S. Air Force Captain

Fatim Hemraj
Lisa NowakNY Daily News

Lisa was only 6-years-old when she watched Apollo 11 and decided she wanted to become an astronaut. She graduated high school as co-valedictorian, enrolled in the United States Naval Academy, and became an Aerospace Engineer. In 1996, Lisa was chosen by NASA out of 2,400 applicants, and it was during training she met and fell in love with Richard Nowak. The couple married, moved to Texas, and had three children; a boy and twin girls.

Lisa flew to space and became a United States Navy Captain while taking care of three young children. She proved that a woman really could have it all. That was until she gave it all up for a man who wasn’t her husband.

In January 2004, Lisa embarked on an 11-day survival training course with fellow astronaut and married man, William Oefelein. When they returned to Houston, Lisa and William began an intense extramarital affair. In May 2005, William’s unsuspecting wife found compromising emails between the pair and swiftly filed for divorce.

William continued to see Lisa, and even gave her a key to his apartment. For her, the affair was about more than just sex. She was completely enamored with William and hoped for a meaningful relationship, so it came as quite a shock when in January 2007, he told her he was trading her in for a younger, more beautiful model: 30-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman.

Devastated, Lisa used her spare key to enter William’s home and found passionate emails between him and Colleen. When she learned that her romantic rival was flying to Orlando on February 5, 2007, Lisa decided they needed to sit down for a heart-to-heart.

Or, maybe something a bit more sinister.

Running on fury and heartbreak, Lisa drove 1,000 miles from Houston to the Orlando International Airport, wearing a diaper to avoid stops along the way. She arrived at 1 am and spotted Colleen at the baggage carousel. Like a scene out of a cheesy psychological thriller, Lisa put on a wig and an oversized trench coat and followed her nemesis to her car.

Lisa tapped on the driver’s side window and asked Colleen for a ride, claiming her boyfriend hadn’t shown up. Sensing something was off, Colleen declined but offered to call for help. When she began to roll up her window, a noxious gust of pepper spray filled her lungs.

Colleen managed to drive away and called 911. Officers quickly apprehended Lisa. Inside her car, they found the pepper spray, a 4-inch knife, gloves, a steel mallet, a BB gun, rubber tubing, and a stack of email print-outs between William and Colleen.

Lisa pleaded guilty to burglary and misdemeanor battery. She was sentenced to a year of probation and was ordered to write a letter of apology.
William and Colleen Oefelein with their sonPeople

Colleen and William went on to start a family together. They moved to Alaska, married, and had a son. After experiencing night terrors, dizzy spells, and panic attacks, Colleen used her trauma as inspiration and became a successful literary agent and fiction author, writing under the pen name C.M. McCoy.

Things didn’t work out so well for Lisa. Everything she had worked so hard for was torn to shreds within the blink of an eye; she became the first-ever on-duty astronaut to face felony charges, lost her dream job at NASA, was demoted by the Navy, and Richard filed for divorce.

It’s a wonder how a bright, seemingly intelligent woman with no criminal record and a highly impressive list of accomplishments earned herself the nickname, “The Astro-Nut.”

Sources: Astronaut Love Triangle: Nine Years Later Victim Colleen Shipman on New Life |, Former NASA astronaut avoids jail for attack | Reuters, Lisa Nowak: Why the Astronaut Drove 900 Miles to Attack Her Ex’s Girlfriend — Biography, Lisa Nowak — Wikipedia

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