NASA is looking into charges that astronaut Anne McClain accessed her estranged partner’s bank account while in orbit living on the International Space Station. Interestingly, according to the New York Times, this is the first such allegation of a crime committed in orbit.
McClain admitted to accessing the account while in space but claimed she did so without knowledge that she was no longer allowed access to the account. Her lawyer claims she was simply checking in on family funds and ensuring there was enough money available to take care of the couple’s young son. McClain was helping raise her partner Summer Worden’s young son, and McClain’s lawyer claimed she simply wanted to know if there were enough funds to take care of the child.
According to Worden the account was accessed improperly from a NASA affiliated computer system. Another family member opened a complaint with NASA’s inspector general, claiming identity theft and improper access to Worden’s financial records.
According to The Guardian Mark Sundahl, a Cleveland State University law professor and director of the Global Space Law Center, was not aware of any previous allegation of crimes committed in space. NASA also said they were unaware of any such allegations. The space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Union have established protocols to handle legal issues that occur while in orbit.
However, as this is the first instance, there are novel legal concerns. Worden brought a claim with the federal trade commission and only time will tell how the legal system sorts this out. But as it stands now, it appears to be a first.