NASA officials are currently investigating what may very well be the first crime ever committed in space.
When former Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden noticed that an unknown individual had logged into her bank account, she immediately asked the bank to investigate. Worden was concerned that her account might have been compromised, possibly by a hacker hailing from a foreign country, but the bank reported that these unauthorized logins were coming from much, much further away. Specifically, this suspicious activity originated from the International Space Station (ISS), over 240 miles above the earth.
As shocking as this discovery might seem, Worden was not surprised at all. Among the crew of the ISS was her ex-wife, astronaut Anne McClain. The two women had just divorced, with McClain accusing Worden of assault, and they are currently in the midst of a custody battle over Worden's 4-year-old son.
Certain that McClain was responsible for logging into her accounts, Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and her family complained to NASA's Office of Inspector General. McClain now stands accused of identity theft and improper access to Worden's financial records. If she's convicted of these crimes, she'll be guilty of the first crime to ever be committed in space.
The astronaut has admitted to accessing her ex-wife's accounts, but does not believe that her actions were in the wrong. Only recently divorced, the two women were still financially entangled, and McClain states that she was simply ensuring that her former family unit was financially sound. The astronaut said she used to regularly check the account during the course of their marriage, and Worden had told her the password and failed to change it following the divorce.
McClain's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said that his client denies doing anything improper, and is fully cooperating with the investigation. “There’s unequivocally no truth to these claims,” McClain tweeted. “We’ve been going through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media.” The astronaut added that she had “total confidence” that NASA would see her side of the story.
The founding nations who contributed to the ISS planned for the contingency of prosecuting criminal actions that could occur onboard. Any crime committed on a specific country's part of the station is under the jurisdiction of that country. Hence, the US government is tasked with investigating McClain's potential wrongdoing.
“Just because it’s in space doesn’t mean it’s not subject to law,” said Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, All That Is Interesting reports. Sundahl said that this is indeed the first possible crime that has occurred on the ISS, but he is certain it will not be the last. “The more we go out there and spend time out there, all the things we do here are going to happen in space,” he said.