NASA boss, dismissing claims of drunken astronauts taking flight as "urban legend,'" said the space agency will start testing fliers for drugs and alcohol just to be sure.
A NASA report released today found no proof that any astronauts showed up intoxicated before a flight. Last month, an independent report cited anonymous interviews with astronauts and flight surgeons who said drunken fliers had been cleared for liftoff on two missions. That report didn't name alleged offenders.
"There is a Web site for urban legends and stories that are not true," Administrator Michael Griffin said today in a news conference at NASA headquarters in Washington. "This story is one of them."
NASA began a closer examination of employee health after astronaut Lisa Nowak allegedly tried to kidnap a rival for a shuttle commander's affections in February. Nowak's lawyers said yesterday they may pursue an insanity defense.
Former astronaut Bryan O'Connor, NASA's mission safety chief, did the research for the report released today. While O'Connor lacked the names of the anonymous sources in the earlier report, he said he interviewed about 90 people associated with shuttle missions in the past two decades, reports Bloomberg.
One unidentified astronaut supposedly was drunk when he showed up for a shuttle launch. Another unnamed astronaut supposedly was inebriated before boarding a Russian Soyuz rocket for a flight to the International Space Station.
It turns out, O'Connor and Griffin said, that both accounts were based purely on rumor that could not be substantiated.
O'Connor said his team conducted 90 interviews and reviewed 40,134 records of all 94 shuttle flights and 10 soyuz missions during the past 20 years and could find no evidence to confirm the assertions.
"Within the scope and limitations of this review, I was unable to verify any case in which an astronaut space flight 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 the shuttle or soyuz," O'Connor said in the report.
He confirmed that alcohol is available in the crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center, but he said it is highly unlikely that an astronaut could overindulge shortly before a flight, reports San Jose Mercury News.