NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough (above left) is the only American on the International Space Station right now, which means he’s the only American not on planet Earth and, therefore, won’t be going to the polls next Tuesday to vote in this year’s presidential election.
Like the good guy we assume he is, he filled out his absentee ballot long before leaving the country for his space launch from Kazakhstan last month. But it still got us thinking: How do astronauts vote on orbit?
Well, in 1997 a bill was passed in Texas that allows space explorers to be part of the democratic process.
Mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center actually sends secure electronic ballots up to space, marked “low-Earth orbit,” the location of the Space Station. An e-mail with crew member-specific credentials is sent from the County Clerk to the crew member, NASA explained in a 2008 statement. Those credentials allow crew members to access the secure ballot.
Once the ballot is completed, the crew member sends it back down to Earth and the County Clerk’s Office records the vote.
Of course, with talk of sending humans to Mars, we’re curious as to how red planet-bound Americans will vote—or if they even will. But the space agency does not have any specific plans as of yet.
Then again, if Mars is anything like it appears to be in the trailer for the new flick Life, this conundrum might, umm, take care of itself?