NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins Votes from Space - 250 Miles above Earth

Pablo Tucker
October 26, 2020

She voted prior to her return to Earth on October 30, 2016.

"I believe it's actually essential for everyone to vote", Rubins said last month.

David Wolf, a retired NASA astronaut, was the first who voted in a local Texas election in 1997 while he was over 200 miles above the Earth.

Expedition 49 Landing Preparation ZHEZJAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN- OCTOBER 29: Expedition 49 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins talks to her family via satellite phone shortly after she Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 (Kazakh time). She made sure she cast her vote for the United States elections using the ISS Polling Booth. NASA wrote on its Twitter handle quoting Kate that I have voted today from the International Space Station.

Once their FPCA is approved, the astronaut is nearly ready to vote. Like many great things in space, voting starts with an experiment.

"Like other forms of absentee voting, space voting begins with the Federal Postcard Application, or FPCA", says NASA.

Once approved by the FCPA, the astronaut sends a test ballot to a team at NASA's Johnson Space Center, according to NASA, the county clerk who manages the election in the astronaut's home county.

This isn't the first time Rubins has cast her ballot from space: She voted in 2016 when she was also researching at the space station.

"After a successful test, a secure electronic ballot generated by the clerk's office of Harris County and surrounding counties in Texas, is uplinked by Johnson's Mission Control Center to the voting crew member", NASA says. By completing it ahead of its launch, space station crew members signal their intent to participate in an election from space.

An e-mail with crew member-specific credentials is sent from the County Clerk to the astronaut.

In reality, the booth was the International Space Station's toilet.

Rubins will travel back to Earth in April 2021.

Rubins filled out the ballot in the email and it was downlinked and delivered back to the clerk's office. Since then, several NASA astronauts have exercised this civic duty from orbit. As NASA gears up to send astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars one day, they have said that no matter where their astronauts are in the solar system, NASA will make sure they are able to vote.

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