CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – This weekend as the seven astronauts relax before Tuesday’s blastoff into space, the beer will be cold and waiting at crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center.

No one will monitor how much they drink, no breath tests given.

“We’re all professionals,” says Scott Kelly, commander of the shuttle mission in August.

While the outside world was aghast at a medical report a few months ago suggesting two cases of drunkenness just before launch, the men and women who fly NASA’s space shuttles are indignant.

“It’s just such an absurd thing to think that someone would even do that,” said Kelly, a Navy commander. “I don’t have the words to describe how ridiculous this whole thing is.”

He and others agree there’s no harm in having a beer a day or two out, and he did just that. During the three days before liftoff, the shuttle crew is in semi-isolation.

Kelly’s co-pilot, Charles Hobaugh, a burly Marine colonel, readily admits he’s no teetotaler. But he says that coming into launch, his drink of choice is skim milk.

Their mission came just over a week after the controversial report by a special medical panel that mentioned inebriated astronauts, citing interviews with unnamed sources.

What made the anonymous allegations of heavy preflight drinking even worse is that they followed the arrest of Lisa Nowak. The then-astronaut chased her former astronaut-boyfriend’s new love interest halfway across the country and ended up in jail. She intends to plead temporary insanity.


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