In 2007, an astronaut named Lisa Nowak drove 900 miles to the Orlando airport, bringing a knife, a mallet, rubber tubing, and a BB gun. At the airport, she wore a black wig and followed Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman in the parking lot.
After Shipman declined to give her a ride, Nowak began crying and then tried to pepper spray Shipman, even trying to murder her, according to police reports.
Dr. Patricia Santy, a psychiatrist who worked as a NASA flight surgeon, publicly criticized the agency, saying “NASA tends to deny behavioral issues are a big problem for astronauts.” NASA’s Johnson Space Center conducted an internal review of its medical assessments, recommending additional mental health screenings for astronauts.
It’s been ten years since the Nowak debacle, and NASA hasn’t forgotten about mental health. Last year, scientists working for the Human Research Program at NASA released their latest evidence report on the mental health risks of space flight.