A NASA astronaut is being accused of multiple crimes committed aboard the International Space Station (ISS), according to The New York Times.
Anne McClain, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, is facing allegations that she accessed her estranged wife's bank account during her 203-day mission aboard the ISS earlier this year. If found guilty, McClain would be the first person ever sentenced to a crime committed from space.
NASA began investigating the case after McClain's wife, Summer Worden, filed a complaint with the agency's Office of Inspector General. Worden, who is in the midst of a separation and child custody dispute with McClain, accused the astronaut of identity theft and accessing private financial records.
The conflict began when Worden noticed McClain knew intimate details about her spending. Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer, asked her bank to look up the locations of computers that had recently accessed her account.
According to The New York Times' investigation into the case, the bank returned to Worden with an unusual finding: One of the computers that had accessed her account was registered with NASA.
Worden's parents said that McClain was accessing the account as part of a "highly calculated and manipulated campaign" to obtain custody of Worden's son, who was born about a year before the couple got married. After returning to earth, McClain admitted to accessing the account but denied any wrongdoing.
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
McClain told investigators earlier this month that she was viewing the account from space for the same reason she always had — to make sure Worden had enough money to pay her bills and take care of her son. She added that she had used the same password as she had used previously and that she had never received any indication from Wordon that she shouldn't still be able to access the account.
Worden and McClain married in 2014, but Worden filed for divorce in 2018 after McClain accused her of assault. Worden denies that accusation, according to the Times's investigation, claiming it was also part of McClain's efforts to gain custody of her child.
McClain joined NASA in 2013 after more than a decade in the army. The 40-year-old astronaut was even set to be part of NASA's first all-female spacewalk, but several issues — first equipment errors and later McClain's return to earth — delayed that effort.
As NASA investigates allegations against McClain, Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, says that the accusations themselves are historic — previously, there had been no known allegation of a crime committed in space.
"Just because it’s in space doesn’t mean it’s not subject to law," Mr. Sundahl told the Times.