Crime committed in space
What happens when there’s a crime committed in space? It’s something that we’ll need to start thinking about, as NASA are investigating a crime that allegedly took place in the International Space Station (ISS). It might sound like something out of a science fiction game, but it’s very real for a former couple right now.
An astronaut, Anne McClain, has been accused of identity theft and accessing the bank account of her former partner, Summer Worden, while in space. Worden made a complaint to the federal trade commission, while her family went directly to NASA’s office of inspector general. After marrying in 2014, the couple split in 2018 – McClain argued that she was checking over the family’s finances, but this was disputed by Worden.
As space travel starts to become more prevalent, there will be more crimes committed in space, and there will need to be clear procedures in place to deal with them when they happen. It’s not entirely clear at the moment. It seems as if even NASA are trying to figure out exactly what the protocol is, or should be.
Does any country have rights?
Currently, if an American astronaut like McClain commits a crime in space, and the victim, like Worden, is also American, the US justice system would apply. However, that only applies to the International Space Station, and crimes committed on board. The majority of those who have visited the space station are either American or Russian, with Japanese, Canadian, Italian and other minorities.
What do we do when a space tourist commits a crime? Luckily, only seven people have paid to go to space as a tourist in our history, so it’s not something we have to worry about too much right now. It could depend on the country of registration of the mode of transport, or the countries that the tourists are citizens of.
Space is like the ocean. No single country can claim jurisdiction of the entire area, which makes things difficult. Particularly as different countries have different ideas of what constitutes a crime. Being able to travel in space is an exciting opportunity, and astronauts see things that the rest of us can only imagine. But with increased space travel comes these sorts of questions.
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