Here's How We Might Punish Crimes Committed On The Moon

With the next space race kicking into high gear, Canada is taking steps to deal with any of astronauts who decide to become space pirates while on their way to the Moon. 

The Canadian government already has verbiage regarding conduct on the International Space Station written into its criminal code. Still, a new provision in Bill C-19, which was passed by the House of Commons, specifically outlines how crimes will be dealt with concerning space flights to and from the Lunar Gateway and on the surface of the Moon.

According to CNET, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has one of its astronauts slated to join the Artemis II crew set to launch in May 2024. NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), CSA, and Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency are all working on the Artemis program. Part of that project is to land the first female and first person of color on the Moon. This mission is meant to establish the Lunar Gateway, a space station orbiting the Moon. This new space station will make possible future missions, not only to the surface of the Moon, but journeys into deep space too.

Laying down the law in space

The law passed in Bill C-19 states that any Canadian astronaut who commits a crime "outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense" will be thought to have perpetrated that crime in Canada. Despite being some 238,000 miles away, an astronaut won't be able to escape the long arm of the Canadian law. The amendment applies specifically to any crime on a flight to the Lunar Gateway, or while on the surface of the Moon. Additionally, it broadens the scope of the law to include a "crew member of a Partner State" (an astronaut from another country) who threatens the life of a Canadian astronaut or even damages a flight element provided by Canada. 

It makes sense for Canada to lay down the law in space, because no country wants to be known as the first to produce a space criminal. But there was almost one.

In 2019, NASA investigated American astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain after her estranged spouse, accused McClain of identity theft. While on a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, McClain accessed her partner's bank account, which she admitted doing, but only to pay the bills. McClain was eventually cleared, and her ex-partner was charged with making false allegations to federal authorities.

As Earth's global space agencies and privatized space flights ramp up, it's likely we will start to see other countries make changes to the laws governing the final frontier.