Professor Mark Sundahl, director of CM|Law’s Global Space Law Center, was featured in a New York Times story, “How a Bitter Divorce Battle on Earth Led to Claims of a Crime in Space.” The article centers on a “bitter separation” between NASA Astronaut Anne McClain and her spouse, Summer Worden.
According to the article, Ms. Worden noticed that Ms. McClain seemed to know about her spending habits, even though the two were estranged. After some investigation, Ms. Worden’s bank reported that her account had been accessed by a NASA computer network. Ms. McClain, who was serving on a six-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS), “acknowledged that she had accessed the bank account from space, insisting through a lawyer that she was merely shepherding the couple’s still-intertwined finances.”
The article notes that the ISS, run by space agencies from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada, has “long-established procedures to handle any jurisdictional questions that arise when astronauts of various nations are orbiting Earth together.” The article then turned to Professor Sundahl, who observed “he was not aware of any previous allegation of a crime committed in space.” NASA officials likewise stated that they were “unaware of any crimes committed on the space station.” Professor Sundahl is quoted as stating, “Just because it’s in space doesn’t mean it’s not subject to law.”
Professor Sundahl also commented on the complexities raised by the discovery process in this context: “One potential issue that could arise with any criminal case or lawsuit over extraterrestrial bank communications, Mr. Sundahl said, is discovery: NASA officials would be wary of opening up highly sensitive computer networks to examination by lawyers, for example. But those sorts of legal questions, he said, are going to be inevitable as people spend more time in outer space.”
The article concludes as follows: “The more we go out there and spend time out there,” Mr. Sundahl said, “all the things we do here are going to happen in space.”
Professor Sundahl has written extensively on space law issues, and served on both domestic and international space law projects, such as the NASA Advisory Council Regulatory and Policy Committee, The Hague Working Group on the Governance of Space Resources, and the ICAO/UNOOSA Space Learning Group. He is a member of the Board of Editors of Air & Space Law and has served as the Assistant Executive Secretary of the International Institute of Space Law.
CM|Law is the only law school in the United States with a center dedicated exclusively to the study of the law of outer space.