The First Galactic Criminal?

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When you were younger, you may have dreamed about fighting crime in space. What could be cooler than grabbing your blaster gun or lightsaber and taking down a space criminal, bringing him to justice?

Well, for the first recorded time in human history, someone might have done just that. According to a New York Times report, Anne McClain, an astronaut with NASA, may have hacked her estranged wife’s bank account while aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But she is denying the report.

Bank On It

Summer Worden must have thought it was strange when she noticed activity on her bank account that she wasn’t responsible for. After all, only she and her estranged wife had the access information, and her wife, McClain, was on a six-month mission to space.

But Ms. Worden’s bank confirmed her suspicions and, perhaps, her worst fear. One of the logins to her computer came from a network registered to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, more commonly known as NASA. And there was no doubt who from NASA had an interest in her finances.

Worden believed McClain was trying to snoop on her against her will. “I was pretty appalled that she would go that far. I knew it was not O.K.,” she said. She has since filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing McClain of identity theft. https://twitter.com/AstroAnnimal/status/1165365672702070785?s=20

While McClain does not deny accessing the account, she insists that she did so legally. “She strenuously denies that she did anything improper,” her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the New York Times. He explained that McClain routinely checked the account to ensure that Worden had enough funds to care for her and the child they were raising together.

Grand Theft Starship

Whatever the outcome of McClain and Worden’s case, the incident raises growing concerns about the potential for crime in space, particularly as we grow closer to widespread space tourism lead by companies like SpaceX.

The more we go out there and spend time out there, all the things we do here are going to happen in space,” said Mark Sundahl who may have the greatest job title on earth as the Director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University. “Just because it’s in space doesn’t mean it’s not subject to law.”

The five co-founders of the ISS, the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada, and Japan, have established protocols for space jurisdiction. But spokespeople confirmed that there are no known legal incidents prior to this one.

For McClain, who was once on a shortlist of candidates to be the first woman on the moon, the step down to first galactic criminal is a big one. It’s a different kind of history, but it’s historic nonetheless.

For those of us marooned here on earth, it is an interesting case study in what happens when people commit crimes in space. Let us know what you think about McClain’s case, and always remember, Han shot first.