Space Crime - Can It Be Done?

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Space Crime

On the 24/08/2019 NASA revealed that they are to be investigating a claim that an astronaut accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse from the International Space Station, in what may be the first allegation of a crime committed in space.

Ms Mclain(the woman behind this) says that she did access the account, but strongly denies any wrondoings ,during a New York Times interview .

Her estranged spouse ,Summer Worden,filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (the astronaut returned to earth before the case was filed) .Mclain told the New York Times through a lawyer that she was just making sure her family's finances are alright.

"She strenuously denies that she did anything incorrect ," said her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, adding that Ms McClain was "totally co-operating".

Ms McClain and Ms Worden( who is an Air Force intelligence officer), married in 2014 and Ms Worden filed for divorce in 2018. Investigators from NASA's Office of Inspector General have contacted both over the allegation, the New York Times have said.


Ms McClain graduated from the prestigious West Point military academy and flew more than 800 combat hours over Iraq as an Army pilot. She went on to qualify as a test pilot and was chosen to fly for Nasa in 2013. In space, she spent six months aboard the ISS and had been due to feature in the first all-female spacewalk, but her role for the spacewalk was cancelled at the last minute over what Nasa said was a problem with availability of correct suit sizes.

(above source from:

After this incident, the five national or international space agencies involved in the ISS - from the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and several European countries - and a new legal framework sets out that national law applies to any people and possessions in space. 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. And as space tourism becomes a reality, so might the need to prosecute space crime, but for now the legal framework remains untested.

I thought that this topic was a good idea to post on , so I found a website to research and then wrote it!

Comments (5)

  • tom Tom @ the BNC
    04 Dec 2019

    Thank you for bringing this question to our attention, appreciative_dove. Please remember in future to always write in your own words and use quotes from sources only occasionally, so we can see what you think.

    What do you and others think - how should governments react to crimes in space? Have any laws been broken if this case is true? And if so, who should do the punishing?

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  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg passionate_dinosaur | Portobello High School
    04 Dec 2019

    Since no one owns space I think it would be best for it to be dealt with as if it had happened on earth, and go by the laws that apply to whichever state or country the person lived in. Of course this would depend on the situation, but I think it makes the most sense.

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  • appreciative_dove | Whyteleafe School B
    05 Dec 2019

    Thank you for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it!

    I think that the government should react to crimes in space strictly because (1) nobody legally owns space and
    (2) they have done it where it is a professional environment , their job is to be an astronaut, not a criminal in space. If the crimes are more serious, the person should have their job taken away or be punished to the standard of their crime (the government should take action of it and punish them correctly.) The country of where the person belongs should take this seriously and give a warning to other astronauts in case they do it.

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  • Hammond School logo courageous_fern | Hammond Junior School A
    13 Dec 2019

    I think the laws should be the same as what the astronaut’s country’s laws are. If there happened to be people from different countries in the same rocket, then the should follow their own country’s laws or make an agreement with the other people on the spacecraft (doctors, pilots, engineers and astronauts) on what laws they should follow. If they break a law up there, they should go to what would happen on Earth (a trial).

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