CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- What would happen if an astronaut came unglued in space? What would happen if a crazed crew members destroyed the ship's oxygen system or tried to open the hatch and kill everyone on board?
That was the question on some minds after the apparent breakdown of Lisa Nowak. She was the astronaut arrested in Orlando recently for allegedly trying to kidnap and kill a woman she regarded as a romantic rival.
It turns out NASA has a detailed set of written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say crewmates should bind the astronaut's wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him (or her) down with a bungee cord, then inject the crew member with tranquilizers if necessary.
The instructions advise “Talk with the patient while you are restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe.''
The instructions don't spell out what happens after that. But NASA spokesman James Hartsfield says the space agency, a flight surgeon on the ground and the commander in space would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to abort the flight -- the case of the
shuttle -- or send the unhinged astronaut home -- if the episode took place on the international space station.
The crew members might have to rely in large part on brute strength to subdue an out-of-control astronaut, since there are no weapons on the space station or the shuttle.