While working on the International Space Station earlier this year, astronaut Anne McClain was not only orbiting 240 miles above her planet. She was in the midst of a bitter separation from her estranged spouse back on Earth. And out of that has come what is perhaps the first allegation of a crime committed in space.
McClain is accused by her spouse, Summer Worden, of inappropriately accessing her bank account from a NASA-affiliated network while aboard the International Space Station, the New York Times reported. Worden has also accused McClain of identity theft. The agency's Office of the Inspector General is looking into Worden's claims, the paper reported.
The two women married in 2014 and had been raising Worden's young son together. However, Worden filed for divorce in 2018. McClain had asked a judge to give her shared parental rights of Worden's son, claiming she had a "deep" relationship with the boy and that she was there "for his first steps and first words," NBC News reported.
Then, McClain left for her ISS mission a few months later in December.
It was there in space that Worden says McClain breached her privacy before returning to Earth in June.
“I was shocked and appalled at the audacity by her to think that she could get away with that, and I was very disheartened that I couldn't keep anything private," Worden told KPRC.
McClain denies wrongdoing, writing on Twitter that "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."
Through her lawyer, McClain told the New York Times that while she did access the bank account, she was simply doing so to ensure there was enough money to pay bills and care for Worden's son. The lawyer said McClain used the same password she had used throughout their relationship.
NASA said it is not aware of any other allegations of crimes committed in space, according to the New York Times. Because she is American, McClain would be subject to U.S. law if charges are brought against her.
NASA praised McClain's accomplishments in a statement to NBC News and other outlets but said it could not comment on the case.
"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," the agency said.