E-mail to shuttle may have sent astronaut into orbit

Published March 7, 2007

ORLANDO - Astronaut Bill Oefelein was in orbit aboard the space shuttle in December when he was sent a steamy e-mail from a girlfriend: "First urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground and love the hell out of you."

Fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak apparently discovered that e-mail and other romantic messages to Oefelein before she set off on her bizarre 900-mile road trip to confront her rival for Oefelein's affections.

The e-mail was among several hundred pages of documents released this week by prosecutors in the case against Nowak, who is charged with trying to kidnap the e-mail's author, Colleen Shipman.

The e-mails, along with statements taken from Oefelein and Shipman, confirm publicly that Oefelein had a romantic relationship with Nowak.

Oefelein met Shipman several weeks before his December launch aboard shuttle Discovery. They e-mailed each other regularly, including while he was in space, though Oefelein opened the e-mail expressing Shipman's desire to rip his clothes off after he had returned to Earth.

Detectives said they found the e-mails in Nowak's possession when she was arrested Feb. 5 in Orlando.

Oefelein and Shipman told investigators they think the e-mails were taken from a computer in his apartment. Nowak had an apartment key.

Police say Nowak, a mother of three, drove from Houston, wearing an astronaut diaper so that she would not have to stop.

Oefelein told investigators that when he broke off his romantic relationship with Nowak in January, she "seemed a little disappointed, but she seemed to be accepting of that."

Oefelein and Nowak still agreed to be gym partners and train for a bicycle race together, he said.

Shipman said she asked Oefelein "point-blank" if his romantic relationship with Nowak was over.

"Because you know how these things go," Shipman told detectives. "I said, 'Is there gonna be some crazy lady showing up at my door, trying to kill me?' He said, 'No ... she's not like that. She's fine with it. She's happy for me.' "