The Truth Behind This NASA Astronaut’s Alleged Space Crime

Most people grow up wanting to be athletes, doctors or astronauts. You know what job you don’t hear as often? Space criminal. But all that might change thanks to Anne McClain, a NASA astronaut who has been accused of the world’s first space crime, according to AOL.

A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, McClain faces allegations that she accessed her estranged wife’s bank account during her 203 day mission aboard the International Space Station in early 2019. If she is convicted, she’ll be the world’s first convicted space criminal, and way more popular at parties.

NASA first caught wind of the case when McClain’s wife Summer Worden filed a complaint with the agency’s Office of Inspector General, which accused the astronaut of identity theft and accessing private financial records.

The star of space crime

Worden first noticed something was up after McClain revealed “intimate details” related to her finances. With a background as an Air Force intelligence officer, Worden asked her bank to trace the locations of computers that had recently accessed her account. According to a New York Times investigation, the bank told Worden that one of the computers which had accessed her account was registered to NASA, pointing to the possibility of her estranged spouse doing a bit of interstellar creeping.

CBS reports that the couple is currently embroiled in a legal separation and child custody dispute, adding a touch of romantic drama to this sci-fi episode of Jerry Springer.

Contradictory claims from both sides make it hard to determine who, if anyone, is being totally honest. While McClain admits to accessing the bank account, she admits no wrongdoing, claiming she logged in just to make sure Worden had enough cash to pay bills and care for her child. She also stated that the password she used was the same it had always been and that she had received no indication that Worden did not want her to access the account. 

However, Worden’s parents described McClains actions as part of a “highly calculated and manipulated campaign” to gain custody of Worden’s son, born around a year before the couple married.

McClain has taken to Twitter to proclaim there is “unequivocally no truth to these claims,” while lamenting the media attention the debacle has received.

Both side says the other's claims are “out of this world”

Trouble had already been brewing for the couple, who married in 2014. Just a few years later, McClain filed for divorce after accusing her spouse of assault — a charge which Worden denies, citing the accusation as another of McClain’s plots to gain custody of her son.

This timeless Earthly tale of love lost has grounded what was once a promising career for McClain, who joined NASA in 2013 after a decade of army service. Her personal legal issues, along with a bit of untimely equipment error, forced her to miss being part of the first all-female spacewalk.

But there’s still hope for the astronaut, which NASA had shortlisted as one of 12 candidates to be the first female to walk on the moon by 2024. Far from publicly condemning the astronaut, NASA declined to comment on “personal or personnel matters,” instead choosing to tout her accomplishments and commend her work aboard the International Space Station.

In a statement to CBS, NASA described McClain’s “accomplished military career,” citing the aerial combat missions she flew in Iraq before describing her as “one of NASA’s top astronauts.”

Who investigates space crimes?

The investigation, spearheaded by investigator Michael Mataya, who specializes in criminal cases with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, is ongoing, as is a separate investigation for identity theft by the Federal Trade Commission.

According to the legal framework written for ISS-related issues, each nation involved with the project — which includes the US, Canada, Japan, Russia, and 11 Member States of the European Space Agency — has jurisdiction over personnel and equipment it controls. So in this case, it’s up to America to figure out who’s to blame.

Given that this is the first real legal spat ever involving space, there’s a chance the outcome could end up setting an international precedent with long-term consequences. Wherever the money goes, legal trouble is soon to follow, and according to an in-depth Union Bank of Switzerland report, the space sector is forecasted to skyrocket, reaching nearly $1 trillion by 2040 on the comet-tails of space tourism, communications and asteroid mining industries.

On the other hand, it all may soon be forgotten — chalked up to nothing more than a lover’s quarrel with a twist, and an interesting footnote in legal history. Maybe the pair will reconcile after they learn just needed some space. Maybe they’ll never speak again, with McClain claiming she could never get a “Worden” edge-wise. Either way, we won’t know until the moondust has settled and the investigation is finalized.

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