An aviation weekly quoting a panel studying astronaut health, has reported that at least twice astronauts were allowed to fly in spite of being found drunk. This was also in spite of flight surgeons and other astronauts warning that the astronauts were so drunk that they posed a flight-safety risk.
As reported in the online edition of the Aviation Week & Space Technology, the independent panel also found that the "heavy use of alcohol" before launch was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule.
The Aviation Week report does not make clear when the alleged incidents occurred, nor does it say whether the intoxication involved crew members who have no role in flying the shuttle or whether it was the pilot and commander.
While feedback from NASA on the issue confirmed claims of alcohol use by astronauts before launch, it also gave that the information was based on anonymous interviews and hence, unsubstantiated. Meanwhile, NASA plans to hold a news conference Friday to discuss the panel's findings.
The panel was created following the arrest in February of former space shuttle flier Lisa Nowak, who was involved in a love triangle.
NASA's space operations chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, announced today it would be inappropriate for him to discuss the matter before the report is released.