Bobby e-mailed me this space-age Smirnoff advertisement, complete with slick copy and a model whose crazy hair is the size of a satellite. And what’s not to like about such an image? It’s kitschy; it’s alcohol; it’s fun. But maybe not always fun. I started looking more into the history of astronauts/alcohol and came across the incident of Lisa Nowak, an astronaut who’s personal life eclipsed her professional carrer when, in 2007, she drove from Houston to Orlando to talk to the girlfriend of a fella astronaut she had a “more than professional” relationship with. What’s the big deal? She also brought the to the talk: gloves, a BB gun, pepper spray, a drilling hammer, and a folding knife along with rubber tubing, garbage bags, a large amount of cash and both a wig and tan trench coat to keep from looking suspicious. So nothing fishy there– oh, and she might have been wearing a diaper.
The confrontation did not go well for either lady involved: one was sprayed in the face with pepper spray and the other lost her job at NASA, the Navy and was convicted of a felony. The incident generated public interest in the mental health of astronauts (oddly enough, the confrontation occurred less than two weeks before Britney Spears shaved her head and generated interest in her own mental well-being.) NASA commissioned an internal report on the psychosocial health of astronauts that, among other things, found “ heavy use of alcohol by astronauts in the immediate preflight period.” NASA launched another investigation to look into statements made in the first report, specifically about the alcohol use, but could not find evidence supporting such statements (both reports here). One critic of the first report was astronaut Scott Kelly, whose twin brother Mark, also an astronaut… that’s right identical twin astronauts, is married to Gabrielle Giffords, another person whose life has sparked public interest in mental health awareness.
I was amused to see this space suit in my inbox. After weeks of grim and dreary space suits, I thought it was time to have a laugh and a drink, but it turns out that even this space suit lends itself to a sobering tale. At least for now, this astronaut has her cumulonimbus hair and a small constellation of drinks within her reach.