Weird title, eh? Bear with me.
I just learned that Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who, um, took a little cross-country jaunt to, um, have a chat with a fellow astronaut, will be given a NASA Spaceflight Medal. According to the press release, the honor
… recognizes distinguished individuals and groups from across [Johnson Space Center] and the surrounding area for their outstanding contributions to the Nation’s space program.
OK. Well, Nowak was an accomplished astronaut, despite her later tribulations. So does she deserve a medal?
I am reminded of Pete Rose. He is an American baseball player, and to be blunt was incredible. He holds many records, and deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. But then he was accused of betting on games, including games played by his own team. He was put on a list that forbids him from ever getting into the Hall. This is still controversial among fans.
So: do you honor someone for their work, even though later in life they may have done something terrible? I suppose if the stipulations of a medal or honor say it’s for their body of work, then you have to consider everything they’ve done. I feel badly for Nowak, I really do, but I wonder if this was a good PR move on NASA’s part. Wait until the mainstream media find out.
Ego Update (June 2): The way kewl Angela Gunn at USAToday has posted her own comments on this issue, linking here to the BABlog.