Man has been in space — in some form or another — for nearly 60 years now. During that time, astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts, and spationauts from dozens of nations have spent hundreds of thousands of hours in space conducting experiments while also building and maintaining space stations, but something recently happened that never happened before…
According to the New York Times, NASA is currently investigating the first crime that was allegedly committed in space. Anne McClain, a decorated astronaut, is accused of committing identity theft after she allegedly accessed her estranged wife’s online bank account during the middle of a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
It might not be some diabolical plan by a mustache-twirling rogue astronaut looking to hack a satellite or space craft, but the first alleged crime in space is still a serious crime if this is the case.
According to the New York Times report, McClain’s estranged spouse, Summer Worden, first thought something was fishy when McClain made comments about Worden’s spending habits, even though they were no longer together. Upon discussing the matter with her bank, Worden discovered that her account was being accessed by a computer belonging to NASA.
McClain allegedly admitted that she was checking Worden’s bank account from space, but didn’t believe that there was any wrongdoing. Worden, however, claiined that it was identity theft and decided to file a formal complaint with NASA’s Office of Inspector General.
McClain, who is back on Earth, is fully cooperating with investigators as they look further into the matter, but what happens if she’s found guilty? And who has jurisdiction over the “final frontier?”
Well, according to the International Space Station Legal Agreement co-signed by the five agencies involved with the space station — United States, Russia, Europe, Canada, and Japan — there are “rights and obligations of each of the countries and their jurisdiction and control with respect to their Space Station elements.” This agreement essentially states that the nation or agency affected by the crime will be the one who has jurisdiction in that matter.
But just because there are laws and treaties for the participating parties in the space station, this may be the first time they will carried out.
Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University told the New York Times that he was “not aware of any previous allegation of a crime committed in space.” NASA officials verified that when they told the Times that they too were also unaware of any previously reported crimes aboard the space station.
It might be the most sensational of space crimes, but this could be the first of many to come.