Lesbian Space Drama: Did NASA Astronaut Anne McClain Commit the World’s First Crime in Space?

Almost everything is different in space: gravity, pressure, the passage and marking of time, forensics, etc. However, one thing that remains steadfast and true regardless of one’s current galaxy: dyke drama.

Astronaut Lieutenant Colonel Anne McClain and former Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden married in 2014. At the time, Worden had a one-year-old son that the pair reportedly coparented, though Worden never allowed McClain to legally adopt the boy. McClain told the Today Show about the difficult realities of parenting while being an astronaut who might be deployed for long periods of time. Problems arose in the pair’s marriage after roughly three years, and in early 2018, McClain asked a judge to grant her shared parenting rights. She cited that she had been present for the child’s first words and first steps and had maintained “a very healthy and deep parental relationship” with the boy. She also asked for “the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child” if a mutual agreement could not be reached between the two.

Worden filed for divorce later that year, and the resulting custody battle was by all accounts extremely messy. At one point, McClain accused Worden of assault; Worden maintains that the accusation was untrue and was part of McClain’s attempt to gain custody of her son. To say these two required the services of Joyce Wischnia would be a massive understatement.

In the midst of this bitter custody battle, McClain launched into space. She departed on Dec 3, 2018, and spent roughly seven months aboard the International Space Station; she was poised to become part of NASA’s first all-female space walk (later canceled, honestly because NASA didn’t have enough lady-sized space suits, but I digress). While McClain was literally in outer fucking space, the pair continued their dispute via email, which is a commitment to pettiness that I personally recognize and respect.

During McClain’s deployment, Worden noticed that her ex was suspiciously knowledgeable about recent changes to her financial situation, and used her intelligence background to do some digging. Her bank informed her that one of the computers that had recently accessed her account was registered to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She wasted no time in reporting her concerns, and although there is no evidence that anyone had used or transferred any funds in the account, Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. McClain maintains that she had only accessed the bank account in order to keep track of the couple’s still-shared financial resources, which she had done throughout their relationship. The New York Times quotes Worden as saying, “I was pretty appalled that she would go that far. I knew it was not OK.” As she told NBC affiliate KPRC, “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.”

Anne McClain returned to earth on June 24, 2019, but her rocky custody battle has only gotten uglier. Worden has accused her of identity theft and improper access to her personal finances. McClain was subjected to an under-oath interview with the NASA Office of Inspector General earlier this week, and her lawyer maintains that she “strenuously denies that she did anything improper.”

In the meantime, the extraterrestrial nature of this case has made it particularly fascinating from a legal standpoint. Crime surrounding space travel has existed for years, but experts are saying that this could be the first actual case of crime IN space. According to the New York Times,

The five space agencies involved in the space station — from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada — have long-established procedures to handle any jurisdictional questions that arise when astronauts of various nations are orbiting Earth together. But Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, said he was not aware of any previous allegation of a crime committed in space. NASA officials said they were also unaware of any crimes committed on the space station.

This will be the most amazing Law and Order: SVU episode I’ve ever seen.

For their part, NASA have refused to comment on McClain’s personal matters, and Worden and McClain’s divorce is set to be finalized this October.

Remind you of anyone?

Stef Schwartz is a founding member and the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

Stef has written 446 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. I am so glad you covered this as I was instantly obsessed as soon as I read this story.

    Obvs crime should never be celebrated but I cannot help my human fallibility in being thrilled that not only was the first space crime committed by a lesbian, but the crime itself was the spiralling of a misdemeanour most gay: internet stalking your ex.

    BE GAY DO LESBIAN SPACE CRIME !

  2. Ummm, Worden used her intelligence background to do some digging. Sure, sounds legit.

    But then… why didn’t she change the password on her bank account ? Is her background perhaps, not that intelligent ?

    I find the claims of identify theft and improper access rather tenuous, if Worden never took any steps to secure access to her financials.

    Food for thought though, for those of us who are gay-divorcées-in-progress.

  3. “While McClain was literally in outer fucking space, the two continued their despute over email”

    I guess once you’ve been in space a few times, that “we are wo small and insignificant!!” feeling fades? Ha. What a downer.

  4. OK, I’d just like to take a moment to state how annoyed I am that it took a criminal investigation for NASA to admit that, yes, one of their astronauts is an out gay woman, and that furthermore, the possibility of this being the first crime committed in space is overshadowing what is still a pretty historic moment for the LGBT community.

    (Heck, the advocacy group i’m part of, Out Astronaut, was founded in response to the fact that an openly LGBT astronaut had never flown, and our mission just got a bit more awkward).

    Lastly, apparently McClaine is or was on the shortlist to be the first woman on the Moon in 2024 (well, assuming Trump gets his wish), and now I can’t help but wonder if the reason NASA and McClaine had been so secretive about it is because of fear that there’d be negative public reaction from conservatives at the thought of the first woman on the Moon being a dirty queer.

    Which, as someone who seriously plans to apply to the astronaut corps as soon as she’s finished with her PhD, is extremely disheartening.

    (I mean, I figured I’d never make it in–even if you’re eminently qualified, it still ultimately becomes a crap shoot because there are *so* many applicants for so few slots, but for me to get disqualified because the type of person I am isn’t politically expedient amongst hard-right Congresscritters is adding insult to injury).

    • I think it’s dicey not for just McClain, but for NASA. They have plenty of space vehicles in the pipeline, but their current ride to the ISS is still the Soyuz. So it’s not just a question of US politics, it’s also a question of dealing with the Russian space agency, and having to train with that agency in Kazakhstan.

  5. fun fact, i work at a newspaper for old people and we wrote an article about the space suit thing, including some pictures of McClaine. and because of our article, i was able to bring up *this* article in a meeting. now i’m watching my cubemate, Craig, scroll autostraddle

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