If we’re talking ‘crime’ in the sense of a reprehensible act that we intuitively understand to have violated the social contract, the first space crime happened in 1969, when a fully formed turd was set loose in the lunar module during the Apollo 10 mission and none of the astronauts would admit that the turd was theirs.
Astronaut Anne McClain might well be the first person to have committed an actual crime in space though, with NASA investigating an allegation that she improperly accessed the bank account of her former spouse while aboard the International Space Station.
According to a report from the New York Times, the allegations come from McClain’s ex-wife, former Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden. Worden was reportedly perturbed by how much McClain knew about her finances and, on asking her bank where her accounts had been accessed from, found that someone had been logging in from within a NASA computer network.
From there, Worden filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission and her parents filed one with the NASA Office of the Inspector General, accusing McClain of having committed ‘identity theft’. Under oath, McClain told the Inspector General that, yes, she had accessed the accounts, but only to check on the financial well-being of Worden’s son, using passwords she had been given before the divorce. According to the NYT, McClain’s lawyer says that she had previously been given permission to do so and was unaware that any permission had been revoked.
Worden’s parents have reportedly categorised McClain’s actions as part of a “highly calculated and manipulative campaign” to gain custody of Worden’s son in their filings with the Office of the Inspector General.
In a statement to Twitter yesterday, McClain denied any wrongdoing:
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. I have total confidence in the IG process.
In a strange twist, McClain was not ‘officially’ out until this story was broken, as a result of which, she is now the first publicly gay astronaut in the history of people going to space (crucially, though, she’s definitely not the first gay astronaut).