Fans of crime novels and true crime television drams know there’s always a few twists before the crime is solved. That’s the case with the first alleged crime committed in space. In August 2019, astronaut Anne McClain was accused of committing the crime of identity theft while serving earlier that year on the International Space Station. While she denied the charge and offered an alibi, her fate seemed determined … until a new twist arrived this week. Is NASA turning into the Milky Way’s Most Wanted?
“She strenuously denies that she did anything improper(and) is totally cooperating.”
McClain was accused by Summer Worden, her estranged spouse and a former Air Force intelligence officer, of accessing their former bank account that she now had sole possession of by using her identity – an activity that occurred while McClain was on the ISS and using a NASA computer link. Through her attorney, McClain denied the accusation, saying she thought she still had the right to access the account and was acting in the best interest of their child, who was the center of a custody battle. McClain is a decorated NASA astronaut; Worden is a National Security Agency employee. This was expected to be a battle over which highly believable and trustworthy person was most believable and trustworthy.
“The estranged wife of Anne McClain, a Spokane native and decorated NASA astronaut, has been indicted on two charges of lying to federal authorities following a public dispute in which she accused McClain of improperly accessing their joint bank account from the International Space Station.”
Well, that was easy. The Spokane (Washington) Spokesman-Review on April 6th reported that Summer Warren was indicted by a grand jury in Houston on charges of making false statements to the Federal Trade Commission and NASA’s Office of Inspector General. The investigation which uncovered the false statements reads like a reminder to use strong passwords or a password manager on bank, credit and other critical accounts. McClain alleged that she didn’t know she was supposed to not have access to Worden’s bank account at USAA Federal Savings Bank because it still had the same password the couple used for most of their accounts.
Then it boiled down to a simple matter of checking dates. McClain accessed the account in January 2019 while she was stationed on the ISS. Worden told the authorities she had opened a new account in September 2018 and reset her password then. However, the records showed that Worden actually opened the account in April 2018 and didn’t change the password until January 2019 … after McClain accessed it.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury … I rest my case.
Will this remove the tag of “first crime committed in space” from Anne McClain’s record (at least the one of public domain) and free her to continue to be considered for becoming one of the first women on the Moon? It appears that way, although the charges haven’t been dropped as of this writing. Will there be others to take its place? Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, made this statement after the original story broke and it still applies today:
“The more we go out there and spend time out there, all the things we do here are going to happen in space.”
That is indeed a scary thought.