Inside the World’s First-Ever Space Crime

Inside the World’s First-Ever Space Crime

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While this story might not be “Tiger King” levels of wild, it’s still quite a ride. Jealousy, revenge and–yes–astronauts. Read on to learn more about the world’s first ever “space crime.”

What Happened?

Lt. Col Anne McClain is an astronaut and combat veteran, having flown combat missions in Iraq before joining NASA. She and her spouse, Summer Worden, filed for divorce in 2018. And that’s when things started to wild. Not even the best family lawyer in the world could have predicted that the custody fight over their son would have erupted into a tale of inter-orbital intrigue.

This August, the battle between the estranged spouses turned nasty. Worden claimed that McClain had illegally accessed her bank account–while on board the International Space Station.

Worden believes that McClain was trying to use her private financial information in order to seize custody of six-year-old Briggs. The couple raised him together. However, he is Worden’s biological son, and McClain did not legally adopt him during their four-year marriage.

According to Worden, McClain had been pushing her to divulge financial information for a while. That’s why she decided to check with her bank about the possibility of someone else accessing her account.

The bank discovered that a computer on the NASA network had logged in to the account. The computer was located on the International Space Station where McClain was working on a six-month assignment.

McClain Fights Back

McClain says she didn’t do anything wrong. In August, she tweeted that “[t]here’s unequivocally no truth to these claims. We’ve been going through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media.”

The astronaut said that her estranged spouse had given her the password to the account. She regularly checked it to monitor the family’s finances.

An additional wrinkle to this story is that, in reporting this story, the New York Times “outed” McClain. She is now the first openly gay astronaut. (Sally Ride was revealed to be a lesbian only after her 2012 death.)

NASA would not give an official comment on the situation. The organization stated: “She did a great job on her most recent mission to the International Space Station. As with all NASA employees NASA does not comment on personal, or personnel issues.”

Update on the Case

Now, a federal indictment has been unsealed in the case. In a statement by U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick from the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas, we learned that it was Worden, not McClain who would be charged.

“A federal indictment has been unsealed against a 44-year-old woman for making false statements to federal authorities,” the statement read. In other words, investigators believe that Worden was lying about the alleged space crime.

Worden allegedly lied to both the Federal Trade Commission and NASA’s Office of Inspector General. If found guilty, each charge carries a max sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.