Unspeakable Times
574.3k readers

Lisa Nowak: The Astronaut Who Drove Across The Country In A Diaper

Updated February 21, 2020 574.3k views11 items

Lisa Nowak had all the right stuff - she was the mother of three young children and a bonafide astronaut in the NASA space program. She had a career, a family, and a husband who loved her. But in just two years, her fairy tale life would splinter into a thousand pieces as her grim mugshot and unbelievable crimes were plastered across every TV screen in America. Under her perfect life of beauty and fame lurked a volatile woman who wanted nothing more than to find revenge against the woman she hated. Spurned by her ex-lover and propelled by jealousy, Lisa Nowak's fiercely competitive drive had morphed into a dangerous obsession, and she would not rest until her nemesis was out of the way - for good. 

Nowak's adventure might top the list of the worst crimes ever committed by an astronaut.

  • Her Victim Had No Idea She Was A Threat

    Colleen Shipman was 29 when she met Bill Oefelein at a house party in Orlando. She found him to be handsome, charming, and polite, so she enjoyed his attention that evening. The two hit it off, and she was impressed by his role as a notable astronaut with a shining career. But she would soon find out Oefelein also came with romantic baggage, namely, Lisa Nowak, with whom he had just broken up. Shipman had no idea about the bizarre love triangle she would become part of with Nowak. Although Oefelein told Shipman something vague about his past affair, he kept Nowak's identity secret and promised the relationship was over. "He didn't mention any names or anything, and he said, 'I had this talk with her and we're going to remain friends. But there's no romance there or anything,'" Shipman said.

    When Oefelein returned from his space trip, Shipman traveled from Florida to Houston to visit him. According to her, "It was a celebration. We were pretty much inseparable once he got back." Shipman soon left for a flight home to Orlando with no idea that Lisa Nowak had left earlier that same night in a BMW headed for Florida. With the flight information stolen from Oefelein's computer, Nowak was armed with a bag of weapons, pepper spray, and a nefarious plan to make her enemy pay.

  • She Broke Into Her Ex-Lover's Apartment And Read His Steamy Emails

    Nowak had reason to be jealous - her ex-lover was mad for Colleen Shipman and there was nothing she could do about it. They had been exchanging steamy emails for months, and Nowak was sure they were having an affair. She had kept the key to Oefelein's apartment and let herself in before the attack; using the computer passwords she remembered, Nowak read through his private emails.

    According to a reporter for ABC News, "Lisa let herself in, and looked into his computer and saw not only some of the steamy e-mails but she also found a flight itinerary." This was when Nowak knew what she had to do. 

  • Revenge Ruined Her Shining Career

    Nowak was charged with attempted kidnapping and murder, which were reduced to misdemeanor battery and burglary. Despite the frightening nature of her crime, Nowak only served two days in jail and was given a year of probation. She was "less-than-honorably" discharged from the Navy and kicked out of the space program. She also fell in rank, losing her role as Captain for the lowlier title of Commander - a shift that affected her salary and pension. She remained quiet during this decision and did not publicly comment, although it was obvious that she was close to tears. 

    But Shipman, who was the victim in the crime, also suffered professionally as a result of the attack, saying. "I had always been the good kid. It was really hurtful. It seemed like everything I did was under a microscope," she said.  

  • Her Lawyers Claimed There Was No Evidence And No Diaper

    Photo: via Flickr

    Nowak's lawyers had argued the police did not have enough evidence to support their severe charge of attempted murder. Strangely, one of the biggest sticking points in the case was the question of the diaper. Nowak's lawyers claimed it was a preposterous fabrication meant to titillate the public. Although there were toddler-sized diapers found in Nowak's car, her defense team insisted they were never used by Nowak - they were for her kids.

    Nowak had already admitted, however, to wearing a diaper when questioned by police as a way to avoid bathroom stops along the way. But apparently, she did stop, as police later found a receipt in her car proving she had paid cash to sleep briefly at a Days Inn halfway between Houston and Orlando. Later, Nowak denied wearing the diaper, claiming that the diaper was still in her car from a hurricane evacuation. Diaper or not, it is this one lingering detail that has been permanently seared into the public memory.