Maybe it’s part of an experiment to see how time slows down in space? Dunno, but after Challenger and Columbia, let he who wouldn’t liquor up the night before strapping himself to a giant rocket-fueled powderkeg cast the first stone.

A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk.

The panel, also reported “heavy use of alcohol” by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour “bottle to throttle” rule applied to NASA flight crew members.

A NASA spokesman declined comment on the findings, which were obtained by Aviation Week & Space Technology. The spokesman said a press conference has tentatively been scheduled for Friday afternoon on the issue.

Between this and diaper lady, it’s been a tough year for NASA. And getting tougher by the moment.