Anne McClain, a NASA astronaut, was accused by her spouse Summer Worden of identity theft and improperly accessing Worden’s financial records. McClain admitted that she accessed Worden’s bank account while in space, however, she said that their finances were still intertwined despite their breakup. In response, Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission as well as NASA’s Office of Inspector General, according to an article from The New York Times.
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This is the first crime committed in space, according to Mark Sundahl, director of Cleveland State University’s Global Space Law Center. NASA officials also did not know of any previous crimes committed in the space station, although there were previous legal issues sprung from space travel, such as:
- 2011: NASA performed sting operation for space engineer’s widow who tried to sell a moon rock
- 2013: A Russian satellite was damaged with debris from a satellite that China had destroyed during a missile test six years prior
- 2017: A businessman sued a space tourism company to get his deposit back, as the planned trip had made no progress.
As space tourism becomes more commonplace, legal issues will become more commonplace and complex. Sundahl told the New York Times,
“The more we go out there and spend time out there, all the thing we do here are going to happen in space…just because it’s in space doesn’t mean it’s not subject to law.”
Last week, McClain had an interview with the inspector general. She said she was just making sure that there was enough money in Worden’s accounts to pay bills and to take care of their four year old child, according to Rusty Hardin, McClain’s lawyer. However, the case is further complicated by NASA, which would be wary of showing lawyers their sensitive computer networks, according to Sundahl.