Will Criminals Be Sent To Blackholes In The Future?

By: Ene Ayegba | Published: Nov 03, 2023

When Elon Musk started his space exploration company, one of the goals he cited was to establish a human colony on Mars. However, is the human race ripe enough to populate other planets?

Recently, something wrong was done on the International Space Station (ISS), and there have been arguments on the right authority to hear and judge the case.

The International Space Station (ISS) Is a Multicultural Community

At the beginning of the space race, it was discovered that we did not have enough information about intergalactic space. If humans would venture out of the earth’s atmosphere and to other planets, we need to understand the conditions we may have to brave.


Source: ISS/Flickr

All of this gave birth to the ISS. Today, the ISS is a joint mission of five space agencies — NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.


The First Space Criminal Suspect, As Recorded

The ISS is a modular laboratory whose first unit set launched into space in November 1998. On the space station, microgravity, exposure to radiation, and other rigors can tell the physiology of its human occupants. This explains why most individuals who work at the station have military affiliations.


Source: Astronaut Anne McClain/Flickr

One of those people was Lt. Col. Anne McClain. During her work with the ISS, she was indicted of a criminal offense.

What Crime Could One Possibly Commit in Space?

Well, she definitely did not take another person’s life. For one, everybody tends to stick close to their kind when far away from home. So, astronauts are quite friendly in space.


Source: Pexels

However, in McClain’s case, her continuous access to broadband Internet was likely her undoing.

A Heist Right from Space

McClain was found to have accessed the financial institution of her former spouse, veteran Summer Worden. She used Worden’s personal login details to access their shared funds in the institution while at ISS.


Source: Hippopx

According to McClain, no crime was committed, as the funds in question are for her and Worden.

Actions Could Be Judged As Legal or Illegal Depending on Prevailing Circumstances

Not too long ago, McClain and Worden were endeared and lawfully married partners. Unfortunately, the relationship went sour, and the two women were in the process of getting a divorce before McClain embarked on the space exploring assignment.

Source: Hippopx

In fact, finance was not the only thing muddying up the waters of their relationship – there was also the issue of child custody.


Now Arises the Question of What Qualifies As a Crime

Based on the evidence available, legal experts have been discussing the gravity of the alleged crime. Experts like Devon Stone, a practicing lawyer, agreed that McClain could be prosecuted for identity theft if Worden decides to press charges.

Source: Pix4Free

However, Stone states that the severity of the judgment may vary depending on the specifics of McClain’s activities when she accessed her former partner’s finance.


Who Has the Authority to Hear Cases of Crime Committed in Space?

McClain’s crime is a first, seeing that no other one has been recorded in space. So, it’s going to set a precedent on how subsequent space crimes will be prosecuted.

Source: Flickr

As attorney Stone would later make us understand, Astronauts are bound by a law called the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1967.


The Treaty Is Our Makeshift Intergalactic Constitution

The treaty is commonly called the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. It is binding on all the representatives of the five space agencies that may occupy the ISS at any one time.

Source: Outer Space/Needpix

Some Articles (VI and VIII) of the said Treaty have something to say about crimes committed in space, particularly on the ISS and criminal offenses committed by astronauts.


An Article of the Treaty Is Specific to the ISS

Article XXII of the Outer Space Treaty was signed into law after the ISS was launched into orbit in 1998. In it, the five contributing agencies agree that any legal issue involving the nationals of a certain country will be heard and tried by the judicial system of the offender’s country.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

By implication, McClain will not be court-martialed in space or sent to Andromeda.


The Fate of the First Alleged Space Criminal

After McClain returns to earth from the ISS orbital research station, the issue might be brought up against her during the legal proceedings of her divorce from Worden.

Source: jenikirbyhistory.getarchive.net

Whether she drew money from her former partner’s account or not, she might be sentenced to between five and 30 years of imprisonment. McClain represented NASA on the ISS and would be judged by American terrestrial laws.