NASA is reportedly investigating the first-ever crime to be committed in space. It’s being alleged that an astronaut accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse from the International Space Station.
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Anne McClain, who has since returned to Earth, acknowledges accessing the account from the ISS but denies any wrongdoing, instead claiming she was merely making sure that the family’s finances were in order and there was enough money to pay bills. Her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, reportedly filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
“She strenuously denies that she did anything improper,” said her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, adding that Ms. McClain was “totally co-operating”.
Investigators from NASA’s Office of Inspector General have contacted both over the allegation, the New York Times reported.
There are five national or international space agencies involved in the ISS – from the US, Canada, Japan, Russia, and several European countries – and a legal framework sets out that national law applies to any people and possessions in space, explains the BBC. So if a Canadian national were to commit a crime in space, they would be subject to Canadian law, and a Russian citizen to Russian law.
Space law also sets out provisions for extradition back on Earth, should a nation decide it wishes to prosecute a citizen of another nation for misconduct in space. As space tourism becomes a reality, so might the need to prosecute space crime, but for now the legal framework remains untested. NASA officials told the New York Times that they were not aware of any crimes committed on the space station.