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How the Battle of Earth Divorce Leads to Space Crimes Claims



Summer Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer living in Kansas, has been in the midst of a violent separation and parental dispute for most of the past year. So she was surprised to notice that her estranged husband still knew things about his spending. Had she bought a car? How could she afford it?

Mrs. Worden started working with its intelligence, asking its bank for the location of computers that had recently accessed her bank account using her login credentials. The bank turned to her with an answer: One was a computer network registered with the National Aeronautical and Space Administration.

Mrs. Worden's husband, Anne McClain, was a NASA astronaut on a six-month mission to the International Space Station. It would become part of NASA's first space path. But the Earth couple's domestic troubles seem to have expanded into outer space.

Mrs. McClain admitted that she gained access to a bank account from space, insisting through a lawyer that she was simply flushing the couple's still entwined finances. Mrs. Worden felt different. She filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and her family filed one with the NASA's Office of Inspector General, accusing Ms. McClain of identity theft and mis-access to Ms. Worden's private financial records.

Investigators from the Office of the Inspector General have since contacted Ms. Worden and Ms. McClain, trying to get to the bottom of what may be the first charge of criminal misconduct in space.

"I was pretty horrified that it would go that far. I knew it was wrong, "Ms. Worden said.

The five space agencies participating in the space station – from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada – have long-established procedures for dealing with any jurisdictional issues that arise when astronauts of different nations are orbiting the Earth. But Mark Sundal, director of the Global Center for Space Law at Cleveland State University, said he was unaware of previous allegations of a crime committed in space. NASA officials said they were also unaware of the crimes committed at the space station.

Mrs. McClain, already on Earth, was sworn in with the Inspector General last week. She claims that she simply did what she always did, with Ms. Worden's permission, to make sure the family's finances were in order.

"She strongly denies that she did anything wrong," said her lawyer Rusty Hardin, who added that the astronaut was "fully cooperating." Hardin said access to the space bank was an attempt to ensure that there was enough money in Ms. Worden's account to pay bills and care for the child who had raised her. Ms. McCain had done the same thing throughout the relationship, he said, with Ms. Worden's full knowledge. Ms McClain continued to use the password she had used before and had never heard from Ms Worden that the account was already out of bounds, he added.

A complaint regarding bank access from the space station is just one of a number of complex legal issues that have arisen in the era of routine space travel, issues that are expected to increase with the advent of space tourism.

In 2011, NASA organized a sting operation aimed at the widow of a space engineer who wanted to sell a lunar rock. In 2013, a Russian satellite was damaged after a collision with a satellite debris that China destroyed in a missile test in 2007 In 2017, an Austrian businessman sued a space tourism company, seeking to recover his scheduled travel deposit, which is not progressing.

"Being in space does not mean that it is not governed by law," said Mr. Sundal

One potential problem that may arise in any criminal or alien bank communications lawsuit, Mr. Sundal said, it's a discovery: NASA officials would be careful to open highly sensitive computer networks for vetting, for example. But these legal issues, he said, will be inevitable as people spend more time in space.

The couple's dispute revolves largely around Mrs. Worden's son, who was born about a year before the two met. [19659002] same. Worden, who previously worked for the National Security Agency, has resisted Ms McClain's adoption, even after they were married in late 2014.

In early 2018, while the couple were still married, Mrs. McClain went to a local court in the Houston area to ask a judge to grant her shared parental rights and the "exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence" if the parties failed to reach a mutual agreement, according to the records. She claims that Ms Worden has an explosive temper and makes poor financial decisions, and asks the court to "legally confirm my established and deep parental relationship" with the young boy.

At about the same time, Ms. McClain apparently posted official NASA photos – already deleted – on her Twitter profile, showing herself in her astronaut costume, smiling with Mrs. Worden's son. "The hardest part of preparing for space is the 4-year-old that I have to leave behind every time I go out the door," she writes at the time.

Ms Worden's attention was further aggravated by social media because she did not want me to want Ms McClain to claim to be the child's mother. Later in 2018, Ms Worden filed for divorce after Ms McClain accused her of assault – something Ms Worden denies and says she believes is part of Ms Ms aspirations McClain to gain control of the child. The assault case was later dismissed.

A few months later, after Ms McClain fired at the space station, their dispute continued to escalate. Ms Worden noticed the banking problem. And when her message of concern reached NASA, staff there immediately raised the issue with Ms. McClain, who emailed Ms. Worden.

"They specifically mentioned threatening emails from orbit and access to bank accounts – I don't know where that information came from," Ms. McClain wrote in an email to Ms. Worden.

Despite the turmoil, Ms. McClain did not The Spokane, Washington, Washington native was a well-known leader with a decorated past, a West Point graduate who became an Army officer and flew more than 800 hours in Operation Iraqi Freedom before joining NASA in 2013. She remains a lieutenant colonel in the Army and Stars and striptease announcement

In the days after Ms. McClain's email to Ms. Worden, Ms. Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission accusing Ms. McClain of identity theft – although she saw no sign that anyone had moved or used the funds on the account.

Ms. McCain, meanwhile, gained national attention for another reason. NASA is promoting the coming phase of the space path for all women, with Ms. McClain working outside the space station with her college astronaut Christina Koch. But in a sudden switchover a few days before the space flight, NASA rejected the role of Mrs. McCain, explaining that there were not enough costumes the size of both women.

Saturday Night Live moves the agency, actress Aidy Bryant, to the frustrated Mrs. McClain with her dreams crushed by NASA's poor planning.

NASA Spokeswoman Megan Sumner said the space path decision was not influenced by any allegations made by Ms. McClain. Ms Sumner declined to comment on other issues raised by Ms Worden.

In the days before Ms. McClain returned from space in June, Ms. Worden's parents sent a lengthy letter to the NASA's Office of the Inspector General, describing what she described as "a highly calculated and manipulative campaign" Mrs. McClain for gaining custody of the child. In the letter, they include the allegation of a bank account.

In recent days, Michael Mataya, an investigator specializing in criminal matters at the NASA's Office of the Inspector General, and another staff member have been investigating the matter, said Ms. Worden and her mother. Mr. Mataya denied comment as a spokesman. The Trade Commission did not respond to the report on identity theft, Ms Worden said.

An internal space dispute may be the first such investigation, but it is unlikely to be the last.

"The more we go out there and spend time outside," Mr. Sundal said, "all the things we do here will happen in space. "


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