Spaceflight Insider

NASA astronaut resigned in 2016 after fraud revelation, according to Gizmodo

NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-135

Photo Credit: Michael Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA is arguably one of the most positively viewed organizations in all of the federal government. However, over the last decade, a number of incidents have placed the space agency in a bad light. The most recent one was revealed in a Gizmodo report indicating an astronaut resigned late in 2016 after it was found they had fraudulently filed multiple travel reimbursement claims.

According to Gizmodo, a NASA astronaut recently resigned from the U.S. space agency after allegedly submitting 15 fake taxi receipts for reimbursement, between 2012 and 2015, amounting to more than $1,600.

The incident was mentioned in a Semiannual Report to Congress, filed by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). When Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the OIG, it was given the report of the incident with the astronaut’s name redacted for privacy concerns of personnel.

NASA is viewed favorably by a large percentage of Americans and recent polls of federal employees show the space agency ranking the highest in job satisfaction. However, several incidents have placed the organization in a bad light.

As noted by ABC News, the most high-profile of which would likely be the attack of U.S. Air Force Captain (at the time) Colleen Shipman by NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak. The 2007 incident made headlines as it involved both Shipman and Nowak as well as the apparent object of both their affections: U.S. Navy Commander William Oefelein. Nowak approached Shipman asking for assistance before pepper spraying Shipman. Nowak was later arrested. A duffel bag discovered at the scene had a two-pound mallet, a 9-millimeter semi-automatic replica BB gun, and surgical tubing.

NASA terminated Nowak on March 8, 2007; this was followed on Nov. 10, 2009, by Nowak accepting a plea deal on charges of felony, burglary of a car, and misdemeanor battery. She remained a captain with the U.S. Navy until August 2010. At that time, a naval board of inquiry, composed of three admirals, reduced her in rank to a commander. She was subsequently discharged from the U.S. Navy under “other than honorable conditions”.

As reported by The Washington Post, in April 2007, William A. Phillips, a contractor with Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. who worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center located in Houston, barricaded himself and NASA employee David Beverly in one of the center’s buildings before killing Beverly and himself.

In March 2010, James D. Vanover committed suicide by jumping from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Vanover served as a swing arm engineer for NASA contractor United Space Alliance (as was reported by Space.com).

In January 2010 and March 2011, cocaine was discovered, at least on one occasion, in one of the former Orbiter Processing Facilities (those used to maintain NASA’s now-retired fleet of Space Shuttle orbiters).

In 2012, NASA Public Affairs Officer Candrea Thomas who had received two DUIs, one in 2006 and another in 2012, presented NASA with five forged temporary driving permits. Upon investigation, Thomas admitted to three of the five forgeries.

This incident also led to penalties for the former head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Ed Mango. According to a report appearing on Florida Today, “Mango then pressured KSC’s human resources department and Center Director Bob Cabana to limit NASA’s discipline against Thomas, aware that she might not be able to repay his loan if she lost her job.”

Mango – who could have received up to six months in prison, three years of probation, and a $5,000 fine – paid a $2,000 fine.

In terms of the Gizmodo report, NASA responded to SpaceFlight Insider’s request for information on Monday, May 22, with the following:

“NASA’s OIG provides objective oversight of NASA programs and operations, and [it] reports independently to the NASA Administrator, Congress, and the public. Since the Freedom of Information Act request was received and responded to by the OIG, it would be inappropriate for the agency to respond to questions related to the FOIA. In addition, privacy laws prohibit NASA from discussing personnel matters.”

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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