NASA report rebuts astronaut drinking allegations

A NASA report released Wednesday dismissed allegations made earlier this summer that astronauts were drunk during or drinking before spaceflight, and said the agency had proper safeguards in place to prevent impaired crew members from flying.

"I was unable to verify any case in which an astronaut spaceflight crew member was impaired on launch day, or any case where a manager of a flight surgeon or co-crew member disregarded their recommendation that a crew member not fly," wrote Bryan O'Connor, NASA's chief of safety and mission assurance, in the report. "I am confident that there are reasonable safeguards in place to prevent an impaired crew member from boarding a spacecraft."

The allegations surfaced in a July report by the Astronaut Health Care Review Committee. The committee was established in February after the high-profile arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak in an alleged attack on a romantic rival. The members were tasked with evaluating the medical and mental health services available to astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Two specific incidents were described where astronauts had been so intoxicated prior to flight that flight surgeons and/or fellow astronauts raised concerns to local on-scene leadership regarding flight safety," the report noted. "However, the individuals were still permitted to fly."

NASA officials immediately questioned the allegations of astronaut drinking.

Astronaut Scott Kelly, who led a shuttle mission this month, wrote a letter to several newspapers saying any suggestion that "my crew or I would ever consider launching on our mission in anything but the best possible condition is utterly ridiculous."

The Wednesday report supported Kelly's general assessment, but issued five recommendations aimed at clarifying the role of flight surgeons in determining whether astronauts were impaired and reiterating the agency's alcohol policy. Those recommendations included stationing flight surgeons in the rooms where astronauts suit up before missions, adding "drinking to excess" to a list of high-risk behaviors and considering whether to make alcohol testing mandatory.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin noted O'Connor's report surveyed 20 years of flight records, and said, "His review found no evidence that astronauts were ever impaired by alcohol."

But Griffin also emphasized that the agency is developing an astronaut code of conduct to codify long-standing expectations of behavior.

O'Connor said the investigation was unusually comprehensive, noting that since 1972, the only investigations for which he had spoken to more witnesses were the probes into the Columbia and Challenger disasters.

"We take these allegations very seriously," Griffin said, "but I've also said that the stories cited seem improbable."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.