NASA is investigating a possible case of identity theft aboard the International Space Station that, if proved true, would be the first criminal act ever committed in outer space.
It’s a caper worthy of a feature film or HBO series. Married lesbians in a fierce battle over custody of their son, while skullduggery occurs hundreds of miles above the earth.
The particulars of the case involved a female NASA astronaut, Anne McClain, going through a painful divorce and custody battle with former Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden. Worden alleges that McClain accessed her personal financial accounts while spending 6 months in the ISS. Her lawyer denies it and there doesn’t appear to have been any withdrawal of funds.
McClain’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the Times that “she strenuously denies that she did anything improper” and “is totally cooperating.”
He added that McClain was monitoring the account to ensure the well-being of Worden’s son, who they had been raising, using the same password to access the account as she had throughout their relationship.
Investigators from the NASA watchdog office have been in touch with both women to address the accusations, the Times reported.
Worden told the paper that the FTC has not responded to the identity theft allegation, and that investigators including Michael Mataya, a criminal case specialist, were assessing the complaint to the inspector general.
“I was pretty appalled that she would go that far. I knew it was not OK,” Worden told the Times.
The two were married in 2014 and filed for divorce in 2018, with McClain accusing Worden of assault. When a child is involved, all sorts of allegations usually surface in an attempt to discredit one of the partners.
There may have been some fallout from the incident. NASA may not have disciplined McClain for any infraction, but a historic spacewalk involving two females outside of the ISS for the first time was canceled.
Jurisdiction would be a nightmare. Where was the alleged crime committed? The ISS is not U.S. property. Which nation has jurisdiction? The ISS about 240 miles above the earth. Over what country was the alleged crime committed?
Actually, there is a body of law that would already govern what happens aboard the ISS, although it’s unclear how the specifics would be applied in a matter of identity theft. While the crime was committed in space, the alleged perpetrator accessed a terrestrial bank account. If charges are brought against McClain, it may become a relatively simple case of prosecuting her under U.S. law.
Space travel is still a highly dangerous, experimental endeavor and will be for years to come. But eventually, space tourism, mining operations, and other space outposts either in Earth’s orbit or on the Moon and Mars will challenge us to come up with rules to govern human behavior.
Just like the perfect system we have on earth.