17 September 2019
Anne McClain is a NASA astronaut who just recently returned to Earth in June of this year. She is now being accused of identity theft by her ex-wife. During her time at the International Space Station, McClain would still access their bank account regularly. When Summer Worden, her ex-wife, found out McClain was viewing the account, she brought the charges forward.
McClain denies any wrong-doing and claims she was simply checking to see if their son – who both McClain and Worden are fighting for custody over – was being taken care of. She also defended that she logged in using a password she and Worden both used to access the bank account. She has since been silent on the matter to the media and on social media, and she will most like stay silent while the investigation is being conducted.
This story has sparked a new discussion on what crime and justice will look like in the future. So, I decided to do the same and spark discussion about this story with students on campus. The first question on my mind to ask students was if they thought this was seriously the first space crime. Did McClain commit identity fraud? Diego Colunga, a junior and business major, expressed that a lot of the information out there leads him to believe that she is guilty.
Olivia Wimberly, a senior majoring in marketing, is more sympathetic toward McClain however, and believes that the issue could have been resolved differently. “It is unfair to [McClain]. I think that they should’ve gotten separate bank accounts and changed the password to the other’s account,” said Wimberly.
Regardless, this story does make one wonder about how laws should work up there in the void of space. Currently, the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) decides which country has jurisdiction when a crime occurs on the ISS. But, what about the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond?
“Space is not claimed by any one nation and international laws currently apply,” said Rachel Verhoeff, a junior and a math major. “When we colonize Mars, will they still follow the laws on Earth?”
“This story brings up good questions about jurisdiction over space,” said Guy Walker, a junior anthropology major. “As we break into colonization of space, we’re going to need a global governing body similar to the United Nations.”
Senior and anthropology major Ahnika Vigil had a different take on space colonization. “On Earth, we have a long history of colonialism. We’re gonna run into trouble in the future unless we change how we view space,” she said. “Space law shouldn’t be our main focus. We need to figure out how to allocate resources here before worrying about leaving Earth.”
This is only the beginning of the discussion on space governance. As technology continues to advance, so shall our understanding of space law. The McClain case itself will be remembered as a landmark in legal history. If she is found guilty, she will officially be the first space criminal.