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Illustration by Valery Perez

Will you be the first Moon criminal?

By Valery Perez, June 16 2022

The world’s first space criminal — a title that could solidify any Canadian’s spot in the history books. One that, as of 2022, could be taken up by anyone that steps out of line on their journey through space. 

With current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing Canada’s commitment to participate in the Lunar Gateway — a NASA-backed orbiting space platform with deep space exploration goals over the next 24 years — Canada considers what it takes to keep the peace in space. The Lunar Gateway will be a platform that allows humans to access the Moon, asteroids, Mars and any other places in space they desire to explore, as well provide a laboratory for scientists to experiment in. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. 

On April 28, the House of Commons proposed an amendment during its presentation of the 2022 Federal Budget Implementation Act. The amendment states that, “A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.” Crimes considered include any committed during transportation on the Lunar Gateway to and from, and on the surface of the Moon.

However, these are not the first laws regarding space crimes to be implemented in the Criminal Code. There are some laws already accounting for astronauts committing crimes on the International Space Station (ISS), stating that any crime committed in the ISS by Canadian astronauts is to be treated as if it were committed on Canadian soil. However, the Lunar Gateway project will provide more opportunities for Canadians to take part in scientific space exploration, causing the federal government to fine tune the laws and incorporate the new space destinations. 

Space law enforcement and its importance was placed in the spotlight during the 2019 crime dispute between astronauts Anne McClain and Summer Worden. Worden accused McClain of accessing her bank accounts without consent while in the ISS. In an attempt to gain the upper hand, Worden went to the media and outed McClain as her partner. This earned McClain the title of “First Publically Out Active Astronaut.” It was later discovered that Worden had been lying, and had been charged with lying about a space crime. Had she been speaking the truth, this would have been considered the first official space crime in history. 

As more and more individuals get to experience space exploration, there are bound to be more issues arising. Humans just don’t fully know how to live completely in peace with one another. This deeper dive into international space law will help map out clearer answers on a subject that, until now, has not needed much attention. If at any point commercial space travel becomes more accessible to the general public, cases like this hopefully will have already led the government to properly define space law, thus allowing for peace and order to remain all across the galaxy.

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