NASA astronaut denies space crime claim by ex-partner

A decorated NASA astronaut is being accused of committing a first-ever space crime by accessing the bank account of her estranged partner when she was living in International Space Station (ISS), the US media say citing a New York Times report.

Speaking through her lawyer, astronaut Lieutenant Colonel Anne McClain, above centre, who returned to Earth on June 24, told the Times she accessed her former partner Summer Worden’s bank account only to make sure that the family’s finances were in good shape.

McClain’s lawyer Rusty Hardin said that before separation, she used to financially support Worden in bringing up her son from a previous relationship.

McClain accessed Worden’s bank account only to make sure there was enough money to pay bills and care for Worden’s son. After separation, McClain was not aware of Worden’s request not to access her account, Hardin said.

Worden was not convinced by McClain’s explanation and she and a family member registered a complaint with NASA’s internal office of inspector general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accusing McClain of identity theft and improper access to her private financial data.

According to Worden and her mother, NASA’s internal office of inspector general is looking into the case while the FTC is yet to respond to their complaint.

A NASA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on such matters and praised McClain’s work with NASA and in the military.

Worden alerts her bank

The couple married in 2014. Last year, Worden filed for divorce after McClain accused her of assault.

Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer living in Kansas, said she got suspicious when she noticed that McClain, who was away on a six-month space mission, was monitoring her finances. However, no money was taken out or put in her account.

Worden asked her bank to identify locations from where computers recently accessed her bank account. The bank informed her that only a computer network registered with NASA accessed her bank details.

Worden said she never thought McClain would cross the line.

Rule of the land in space

NASA officials told Times they are not aware of any crimes committed on the space station.

The station involving space agencies from the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe has procedures in place if astronauts ever commit any crime in space. Each of the agencies has to follow the rule of their land for their astronauts.

McClain performed her first spacewalk with fellow astronaut Nick Hague on March 22 this year. She was set to perform her second walk with Christina Koch on March 29 seen as a historic event as both the spacewalkers would be women.

However, days before the all- female spacewalk, McClain was replaced by Hague as ISS did not have enough space suits that would fit both women.