NASA is on full alert defending the competence, credibility, and mental stability of yet another of its female astronauts. Just last week, TASS news agency reported that “a number of media outlets” suggest that in August of 2018, disgruntled American astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor attempted to sabotage the Russian half of the International Space Station. The subsequent two-year investigation revealed that an “inexperienced” crewmember, with limited knowledge of Soyuz architecture, repeatedly attempted to drill a hole into the orbital module. Seven attempts resulted in the drill bit skipping across the surface of the space station’s inner skin – the eighth attempt succeeded in penetrating the hull. A video camera that could have captured the crime had been disabled. The report suggests that Aunon-Chancellor had been diagnosed with a jugular blood clot, panicked, and plotted an early return to Earth for medical treatment. During the investigation, the Cosmonauts were administered polygraphs. NASA refused to allow their astronauts to undergo the lie detectors and denied Russian requests to examine astronaut tools and drill bits for traces of hull fragments or residue.
As the TASS report gained traction, NASA space flight director Kathy Lueders wrapped the alleged saboteur in the mantle of America’s astronaut elite. “NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency,” tweeted Lueders. “We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations.” NASA administrator Bill Nelson “wholeheartedly agreed” with Lueder, tweeting: “I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.”
Not the best, or most convincing statements that could have been lodged in Aunon-Chancellor’s defense. Sally Ride, NASA’s first female astronaut, wound up divorcing her astronaut husband and living out her life with her lesbian partner, writing children’s books to influence future generations of girls. Married astronaut Lisa Novak committed adultery with married fellow astronaut William Oefelein and was charged with the attempted kidnapping and attempted murder of another of Oefelein’s paramours. Astronaut Anne McClain was accused of using International Space Station (ISS) communication links to commit identity theft and wrongfully access the bank account of her estranged wife, Summer Worden. An “unnamed astronaut” (her name was redacted from officially released NASA OIG paperwork) was fired for submitting $1,600-worth of claims for bogus taxi rides over a three-year period. Astronauts Mark Lee and Jan Davis flaunted NASA policy and secretly married shortly before lifting off on Space Shuttle Endeavor, becoming the “first married couple” to fly in space. In March 2019, astronaut Christina Koch was paired with Anne McClain in the ISS for the “first all-female spacewalk.” The mission was scrubbed when McClain refused to wear an oversized spacesuit (although she’d been certified in the same-sized suit).
In all cases, NASA’s first reaction was to unequivocally support the astronauts in question – kudos to NASA for “backing their troops.” On the other hand, except for Anne McClain’s identity theft charges, (the jury is still out on Serena Aunon-Chancellor) most of the aforementioned malefactors were “guilty as charged.”
Novak’s charges were pled down to felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. She was demoted, sentenced to time-served, placed on probation, and retired from the U.S. Navy under “other than honorable circumstances.”
Oefelein was dismissed from NASA and returned to the Navy.
McClain was exonerated, and her wife indicted for making false statements.
The “un-named astronaut,” was fired from NASA and went on with her life.
After the Lee/Davis (nee Smotherman) stunt, NASA codified unwritten policies forbidding married couples from serving in Space together. Their marriage lasted eight years.
Astronauts, just like everyone else, are subject to human error. But still, good order and discipline are essential to any elite unit charged with inherently dangerous, high risk, and high visibility missions. If true, the allegations of attempting to sabotage the structural integrity of a pressurized habitat in the vacuum of space to shorten a tour of duty, ranks right up there with driving across the country to kidnap and murder an amorous rival.
Of the tens of thousands of applicants competing for a spot in NASA’s astronaut corps, only a tiny percentage make it.
Astronaut Class 21 (the “eight balls”) of 2013 drew headlines for “the most ever” female astronauts: four men, four women (out of 6,300 applicants).
Astronaut Class 22, of 2017, (the “turtles”) drew 18,300 applicants. Eleven astronauts made the cut: six males and five females.
As of last May, NASA had 48 active astronauts on its rolls, 33.3 percent women, and there are disturbing signs that NASA is indeed accelerating the prioritization of gender and race to achieve “equity,” instead of focusing on the selection of the best qualified, regardless of sex or color. Case in point, NASA’s unabashedly biased Artemis slogan to place the “first woman and first person of color” on the Moon.
More than 12,000 hopefuls applied for Astronaut Class 23. The identities of the “winners” were to be announced in the summer of 2020. Citing COVID-issues, NASA has slid the announcement to early 2022. With the Biden-Harris administration’s stranglehold on NASA budgets, Class 23 is likely to be the first class to have not only more women than men – but more “minority” men than “white” men.
Space is a dangerous place: equipment malfunctions, isolated and confined conditions, collisions with space debris, microgravity, bodily fluid shifts, bone and muscle loss, and radiation exposure. Such dangers present unique psychiatric and psychological stressors that can accentuate depression, irritability, and paranoia, resulting in interpersonal conflicts between crew members – with potentially catastrophic outcomes.
Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are committed to the selection and training of each and every astronaut. Billions of dollars are expended launching them into space – currently to the ISS, and hopefully, eventually, on to lunar missions and Mars exploration. Recruitment policies and selection criteria that fail to recognize and weed out inherent vulnerabilities do not auger well for the success of long duration missions in the uncompromising and hostile vacuum of Space. Taxpayers have the right to demand total transparency of the attributes that are being cultivated in America’s corps of astronauts, and to demand that those attributes be relevant to the mission and not based upon radically woke ideology or the advancement of agenda-driven “equity.”Michael Howard
has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the South Seas – winning hearts and minds in and out of uniform – federal, military, and freelance. Now working exclusively freelance, he is fluent in German and English, with survival skills in French, Haitian Creole, Russian, Standard Arabic, Swahili and Samoan.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/allegations-of-sabotage-question-nasa-selection-criteria-again