NASA Investigates What May Be The First-Ever Crime Committed In Space

Anne McClain is accused of accessing her estranged partner's bank account while aboard the International Space Station.

the international space station floats above the surface of the earth
NASA/Crew of STS-132 / Wikimedia Commons (GPL Cropped, resized.)

Anne McClain is accused of accessing her estranged partner's bank account while aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is investigating what may very well be the first-ever instance of a crime committed in space, Yahoo News reports. Specifically, the space agency is looking into allegations that astronaut Anne McClain illegally accessed her estranged partner’s bank account while on board the International Space Station.

McClain, 40, married Summer Worden in 2014, and the two co-parented Worden’s son from a previous relationship. They filed for divorce in 2018.

Meanwhile, in December 2018, McClain was sent aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where she served until returning home on June 24, 2019.

Her time aboard the space station made headlines for a potentially-embarrassing reason: at one point during her mission, she and fellow astronaut Christina Koch were scheduled to perform a spacewalk. Had that happened, it would have been the first all-female spacewalk in space exploration history. Unfortunately, there was only one spacesuit capable of fitting either of the women, and so the walk was canceled. McClain later completed the spacewalk with a male astronaut.

As it turns out, however, McClain may have committed another space first while on the craft: the first crime in space. Specifically, Woden alleges that McClain broke the law by accessing her bank account while aboard the ISS. And yes: according to The Naked Scientists, there is, indeed, WiFi in space, in a manner of speaking. Which is to say, astronauts are connected via communications systems to NASA’s computers on the ground, which the astronauts can use to access the internet.

McClain doesn’t deny that she allegedly accessed Woden’s bank account. However, she claims she only did so to see if Woden had enough money to properly care for her (McClain’s) stepson. McClain’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says that McClain insists that she wasn’t in the wrong.

“She strenuously denies that she did anything improper,” he says.

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The case has been forwarded to NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

If She Did Commit A Crime, Where Would She Be Tried?

The ISS is jointly owned by the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. That means, according to Washington City Paper, that astronauts are subject to the laws of their own nations while on board a spacecraft. In McClain’s case — as an American citizen — she’d be subject to American law.

In the six or so decades that space travel has existed, such an issue has never come up. However, now that space tourism is becoming more and more popular, more people will be experiencing life outside of Earth. The more people, the higher the odds that, at some point, there may be a crime committed in space. This will facilitate interesting developments in laws and regulation.