NASA is allegedly investigating the first ever crime committed from outer space, the New York Times reported.
Astronaut Anne McClain allegedly told investigators that she accessed her spouse’s bank account while she was on the International Space Station, while they appear to be estranged and in divorce proceedings.
McClain’s wife, Summer Worden, and her parents have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and NASA’s Office of Inspector General related to the alleged identity theft incident.
Summer Worden a former Air Force intelligence officer, allegedly saw that her bank account was accessed from a computer at a strange location. She asked the bank for data on recent logins and the report came saying that one of the locations that accessed her private account was registered to NASA.
McClain acknowledged that she had accessed the bank account from space, insisting through a lawyer that she was merely shepherding the couple’s still-intertwined finances.
Investigators from the Inspector General’s office contacted both Worden and McClain to get to the bottom of the first ever alleged space crime.
“I was pretty appalled that she would go that far. I knew it was not O.K,” Worden said.
The five space agencies involved in the space station — from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada — have long-established procedures to handle any jurisdictional questions that arise when astronauts of various nations are orbiting Earth together.
Essentially this is it:
“The Intergovernmental Agreement allows the Space Station Partners States to extend their national jurisdiction in outer space, so the elements they provide (e.g. laboratories) are assimilated to the territories of the Partners States.
The basic rule is that ‘each partner shall retain jurisdiction and control over the elements it registers and over personnel in or on the Space Station who are its nationals’ (Article 5 of the Intergovernmental Agreement).”
But Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, said he was not aware of any previous allegation of a crime committed in space.
NASA officials said they were also unaware of any crimes committed on the space station.
Since the issue, McClain has come down back to Earth and has denied any of the allegations, she did so in an under-oath interview with the inspector general.
She claimed that she was merely doing what she had always done, with Worden’s permission, to make sure the family’s finances were in order.
There’s unequivocally no truth to these claims. We’ve been going through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media. I appreciate the outpouring of support and will reserve comment until after the investigation. I have total confidence in the IG process.
— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) August 24, 2019
“She strenuously denies that she did anything improper,” said her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, who added that the astronaut “is totally co-operating.” Hardin said the bank access from space was an attempt to make sure that there were sufficient funds in Worden’s account to pay bills and care for the child they had been raising.
She had done it repeatedly throughout their relationship, with Worden’s knowledge all along.
She used the same password to access the account and had never received word from Worden that it was off-limits.
The spat and subsequent divorce is due to Worden’s son, who was born approximately 1 year before McClain and she met. Worden was resisting allowing McCain to adopt the child, even when they were married.
In early 2018, while the couple was still married, McClain went to a local court in the Houston area to ask a judge to grant her shared parenting rights and “the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child” if the parties could not reach a mutual agreement, according to records.
She claimed that Worden had an explosive temper and was making poor financial decisions, and she wanted the court to “legally validate my established and deep parental relationship” with the young boy.
Back then, McClain allegedly posted official NASA photos, now deleted on her Twitter account, showing herself in her astronaut suit smiling alongside Worden’s son.
“The hardest part about training for space is the 4 yr old I have to leave behind every time I walk out the door,” she wrote at the time.
Now, it appears that McClain’s career is also severely damaged, as she would be part of the first all-female spacewalk.
NASA was promoting the coming milestone of an all-female spacewalk, with McClain set to do work outside the space station with fellow astronaut Christina Koch.
But in a sudden switch a few days before the spacewalk, NASA scrapped McCain’s role, explaining that there were not enough suits available in the two women’s size.
A NASA spokeswoman, Megan Sumner, said the decision about the spacewalk was not influenced by any allegations about McClain. Sumner declined to comment about the other issues raised by Worden.
“Lt Col. Anne McClain has an accomplished military career, flew combat missions in Iraq and is one of NASA’s top astronauts. She did a great job on her most recent NASA mission aboard the International Space Station. Like with all NASA employees, NASA does not comment on personal or personnel matters,” NASA officials said in a statement to Space.com.
Finally, on August 26th, Worden came forward and spoke to media about the allegations.
Summer Worden said she had initially wanted to keep the dispute out of the public eye, but was prompted to speak out when McClain was awarded rights to visit her 6-year-old son Briggs two weeks ago.
“I knew I had to come forward and tell my story because the momentum of the case was not going in the direction we were hoping it to go in accordance with the law and preserving my rights as a parent,” Worden told ABC News.