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U.S. Astronauts Went to Space Drunk
« on: July 27, 2007, 08:11:06 PM »
source: news.bbc.co.uk

A panel reviewing health issues at Nasa has found that US astronauts have been allowed to fly while intoxicated at least twice, an aviation magazine says.

The panel also found heavy alcohol use within the 12-hour "bottle to throttle" ban for flight crew, according to Aviation Week and Space Technology.

The independent panel is due to present its findings later on Friday. Nasa has declined to comment on the allegations.

Separately, Nasa confirmed that a contractor had sabotaged a computer.

The damage to wiring in a network box - which is to be taken to the International Space Station (ISS) - was intentional and obvious, the agency said.

However, it stressed that the equipment was not essential and that astronauts' lives had not been at risk. An investigation is under way.

Meanwhile the health panel is preparing to announce its conclusions.

It was set up following the arrest on kidnapping and assault charges of Nasa astronaut Lisa Nowak in February.

She is accused of attacking her love rival, the girlfriend of a fellow astronaut.

The panel's findings do not deal with Ms Nowak directly or mention any other crew by name.

According to Aviation Week, the panel found that on at least two occasions astronauts flew after doctors and fellow astronauts had warned that they were intoxicated and posed a flight-safety risk.

The report did not say when the alleged incidents took place, or whether they involved pilots.

Regarding the sabotage allegations, Nasa's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, William Gerstenmaier, said the computer problem had been discovered earlier this month.

"The damage is very obvious, easy to detect," he told reporters on Thursday. "It's not a mystery to us."

Mr Gerstenmaier said wires had been found cut inside the unit before it had been loaded onto the shuttle.

The computer is designed to collect and relay data from sensors which detect vibrations and forces on the space station's external trusses.

The equipment had been supplied by a sub-contractor, he added.

Mr Gerstenmaier said engineers would try to repair the hardware before 7 August, when the space shuttle Endeavour is due to fly to ISS, but that the mission would not be delayed.

The damage is believed to be the first act of sabotage of flight equipment Nasa has discovered.

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