Just last month, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Now, another astronaut may have taken another giant leap for mankind: the first crime committed in space.
While she’s certainly not the first astronaut accused of acting illegally, unlike the astronaut diaper lady—who I personally think about more often than some members of my own family—Anne McClain may have done so while orbiting the earth. Her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, alleges that McClain accessed her private bank accounts from the International Space Station. (A boring crime while on land, but in space? Space crime!) The two have been locked in a year-long separation and custody battle over Worden’s son.
According to the New York Times, McClain has admitted that she did access Worden’s bank account from space, but claims that she simply used passwords that had not been changed. Worden and her family filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the NASA Office of the Inspector General claiming identity theft.
On Saturday afternoon, McClain tweeted that “there’s unequivocally no truth to these claims. We’ve been going through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media. I appreciate the outpouring of support and will reserve comment until after the investigation. I have total confidence in the IG process.”
McClain had previously been in the news in March because she was supposed to be part of NASA’s first all-female spacewalk. It was scrapped after the agency claimed they did not have enough spacesuits in women’s sizes, which earned them widespread mockery and criticism.
NASA has not released a comment about the investigation beyond a boilerplate statement. “Lt. Col Anne McClain has an accomplished military career, flew combat missions in Iraq and is one of NASA’s top astronauts,” a spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “She did a great job on her most recent mission to the International Space Station. As with all NASA employees NASA does not comment on personal, or personnel issues.”
While McClain has not been charged with a crime by the federal government as of this writing, GQ staff writer and resident lawyer Jay Willis told me that if she is, we can look to maritime law as an analog. “Generally if a ship is in international waters, it follows the laws of whatever country’s flag it’s flying,” he said. “Federal law makes clear that spacecraft in flight are subject to U.S. jurisdiction, too.” According to the BBC, this still applies on the International Space Station, which houses five countries’ space agencies—if an American commits a crime onboard, they’re subject to United States law, and so on and so forth. “Space law (Ed. note: space law!) also sets out provisions for extradition back on Earth,” they added. “Should a nation decide it wishes to prosecute a citizen of another nation for misconduct in space.”
For now, it's yet to be seen if McClain will be tried in Space Court. Which, sadly, is just regular court.
He was a war-hero fighter pilot. He was an MIT rocket scientist. He was a lot of impressive things, and then Buzz Aldrin went to the moon, which is maybe all you know about one of the most famous men on earth—a guy who's been frozen, like a footprint in lunar dust, in America's mind for forty-five years now. But the thing about Buzz is that he still wants way more than the moon
A day in Los Angeles with Leland Melvin, who went to space, came back, and somehow ended up on Darren Aronofsky's new documentary series One Strange Rock, about the planet he once looked down upon.
Originally Appeared on GQ