By Del Quentin Wilber and Maria Glod
The Washington Post
October 28, 2009
By all accounts, Stewart D. Nozette is a brilliant and creative
scientist, an astronomer who once sketched a key part of a lunar mission
on the back of a cocktail napkin and daydreamed of colonizing the moon.
In a recent photograph, he appears the caricature of a NASA geek: a
pudgy man wearing an ugly green shirt with a pen protruding from the
pocket. Wisps of his hair scatter in all directions.
But Nozette is not your stereotypically shy, reserved genius. He is
ambitious and unafraid to engage in political combat. He has been known
to prod public officials and lawmakers to fund his programs or scuttle
those of rivals, friends and colleagues said. He has donated more than
$35,000 to politicians and causes.
And, according to recently unsealed court documents, he stole lots of
government money to finance personal credit cards, mortgages, car loans
and maintenance on his swimming pool.
It's those traits -- his hubris and expensive tastes -- that might
explain why the astronomer regarded by many in his field as accomplished
and gifted has landed in such serious trouble with the law,
investigators and former colleagues say.
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