NASA Fires Love Triangle Astronaut
updated 03/07/2007 AT 03:05 PM EST
•originally published 03/07/2007 AT 12:25 PM EST
In its statement, NASA said the decision to terminate was reached "by mutual agreement between NASA and the U.S. Navy," and that it had "requested an end to the detail because the agency lacks the administrative means to deal appropriately with the criminal charges pending against Nowak."
It added, "Because Nowak is a naval officer on assignment to NASA, rather than a NASA civil servant, she is not subject to administrative action by NASA," and also said, "NASA's decision to terminate Nowak's detail does not reflect any position by NASA on the criminal charges pending in Florida."
Earlier this week it was learned that when Nowak raced 900 miles from her Texas home to confront her romantic rival, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, at the Orlando International Airport on Feb. 4, she was carrying copies of steamy e-mails that Shipman exchanged with Nowak's former lover, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, according to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's 200-page report.
While Nowak, 43, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, burglary and battery, Florida prosecutors released copies of the e-mails, police statements and other evidence in the case against the married mother of three.
"Lots of love coming your way ... and kisses and a great big giant hug with my legs around you," Shipman e-mailed on Jan. 8 to Oefelein, who responded: "You must really have me around your finger that I can't even function without you here, and with you here, I am slightly smarter than a slug."
Another, according to ABC News.com, has Shipman writing Oefelein on Jan. 8: "The thought of you without clothes is pretty nice *sigh*... Am only sure of 2 things tonight. 1. I love you and I am head-over-heels IN love with you. 2. I'd really like a bath tonight. ... I miss you."
Prosecutors said Nowak had copies of the e-mails at the time of her arrest.
Nowak obtained the correspondence when Oefelein was away from his computer one day and she signed on to his work e-mail, PEOPLE reports in its new issue.
According to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's report, Oefelein, 41, told police that he and Nowak had a "somewhat exclusive" sexual relationship that lasted about three years. Still, the trappings of a long-term romance were apparent: She had keys to his apartment, kept her bike in his bedroom and had access to his private e-mail
In January, Oefelein told Nowak that he was in love with Shipman and wanted to see her exclusively. "She seemed a little disappointed, um, but she seemed to be accepting of that," he told police, describing Nowak's reaction to the news.
In retrospect, it seems clear that Nowak was more upset than she let on. She printed out more than 20 e-mails between her former lover and Shipman, and also learned from Oefelein's computer what time Shipman would be flying into Orlando on Feb. 5. She then hopped in her car and began her now-notorious trip to Florida.
Nowak is out on bail and has been staying at her Houston home. She is required to wear a global positioning device that will alert authorities if she returns to Florida.
Her priest Dominic Pistone Jr. visits once a week. They pray together and he gives her communion, PEOPLE reports. "She's holding her own," Pistone says. "Just keep praying for her, like we are."