Super Cool! I have been pondering a question – do astronauts get to vote in Elections? There’s actually an answer to this:
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is off the planet at the moment, but he still had his say in this year’s presidential election.
Kimbrough, commander of the current Expedition 50 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), was able to vote from orbit thanks to procedures put in place by Texas legislators in 1997. (Most NASA astronauts live in the Lone Star State; Johnson Space Center, the hub of NASA’s human spaceflight program, is in Houston.) [Watch: How Astronauts Vote from Space]
The “voting process starts a year before launch, when astronauts are able to select which elections (local/state/federal) that they want to participate in while in space,” NASA officials wrote in a Tumblr post recently. “Then, six months before the election, astronauts are provided with a standard form: the ‘Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request — Federal Post Card Application.'”
When astronauts get their absentee ballots, their address is listed as “low-Earth orbit,” said Kate Rubins, who wrapped up a nearly four-month stint aboard the space station late last month.
Mission Control at JSC beams a digital version of these absentee ballots up to ISS crewmembers, who fill them out and send them back down. The ballots then go directly from Mission Control to the voting authorities, JSC officials have said.
Both Kimbrough and Rubins used this system to vote from the ISS this fall, NASA officials said.
NASA astronauts began voting from space in 1997, three years before people started living and working aboard the ISS. The first American to cast his ballot from orbit was David Wolf, who did so while aboard the Russian space station Mir, NASA officials have said.
In 2004, Leroy Chiao became the first NASA astronaut to vote from space in a presidential election. He was commanding Expedition 10 aboard the ISS at the time.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” Rubins said in late October during an interview for NASA’s weekly “Space to Ground” ISS update. “It’s very incredible that we’re able to vote from up here, and I think it’s incredibly important for us to vote in all of the elections.”
Kimbrough currently shares space on the ISS with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko. The trio will soon be joined by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who are scheduled to launch toward the orbiting lab on Nov. 17.