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NASA finds no drinking by crew

January 24, 2008|From the Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — NASA said Wednesday that a survey of astronauts and flight surgeons found no evidence of launch-day drinking by crew members, despite a report last year of two cases of drunkenness.

The anonymous survey uncovered a single case of "perceived impairment" by someone a day or more from blasting into space, and it turned out to be a reaction between prescription medicine and alcohol.

NASA officials, citing medical privacy, refused to say when or where the episode occurred, only that it happened on one of the days leading up to launch but not on launch day. The crew member was cleared for flight and rocketed into space.

The officials said they didn't know whether the specified instance was one of the cases of astronaut drunkenness alleged in a report by outside medical experts last summer.

NASA has yet to receive any information about astronauts drinking in the 12 hours before liftoff, said Ellen Ochoa, deputy director of Johnson Space Center outside Houston.

"We really never understood from the beginning exactly what might have led to the comment in the healthcare report," Ochoa, a former shuttle astronaut, said at a news conference. "We've tried to run it to ground. We haven't uncovered anything. I don't know of any issues associated with alcohol before flight."

None of those surveyed in the fall -- 87 of 98 astronauts and all 31 flight surgeons -- reported seeing a crew member drinking alcohol on launch day.

No policy changes are planned for drinking or handling medication; the 12-hour ban on drinking remains. A new astronaut code of conduct, though, is almost complete.

The allegations of drunken astronauts arose just months after the arrest of a onetime shuttle astronaut on charges of assaulting a romantic rival.

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