Lust in Space Astronaut Who Fell for Top Gun Pilot Accused of Trying to Kill NASA Love Rival; Top Gun: Pilot William Oefelein Ambushed: Colleen Shipman Shackled: Nowak Arrives at a Florida Courtroom Yesterday

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Byline: JACQUI GODDARD

A WOMAN astronaut was charged with attempted murder last night followingan extraordinary attempt to kidnap a rival for the love of a space shuttlepilot.

Married mother-of-three Lisa Nowak, 43 , faced court in shackles after driving1,000 miles across five states to ambush Colleen Shipman at an airport inOrlando, Florida.

Disguised in a wig and hooded trenchcoat, she fired pepper spray at MissShipman in an attempt to blind her before holding her prisoner. After thekidnap was foiled police found an airgun, hunting knife, mallet and rubber hosein Nowak's car.

The incident has astonished Nasa, where personal scandals are unheard of amongthe elite astronaut corps. Candidates are chosen for their strong character andcalmness under stress - known as the Right Stuff. Colleagues are asking whetherNowak suffered psychological problems adjusting back to life on Earth followinga 4.8million-mile space odyssey.

Nowak, whose husband Richard is a flight controller for the International SpaceStation, flew a 13-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery last Julyalongside British astronaut Piers Sellers and was due back on the shuttle nextmonth.

While working at Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, she fell in love withformer U.S. Navy Top Gun William Oefelein, 41, a divorced father of two knownwithin Nasa as Billy O. She was unable to control her emotions when she heardthat he was also seeing 37-year-old Miss Shipman, an engineer at Patrick AirForce Base in Florida. …