During the presidential elections in the United States, NASA astronauts will be able to express their position through voting. How this process will take place while the astronauts carry out their mission, NASA said.
Like other forms of absentee voting, voting from space begins with the application for a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). This is the same form that military personnel and their families fill out while serving outside the United States. By filling it out prior to launch, the space station’s crew members signal their intention to participate in elections from space.
As astronauts move to Houston, Texas for training, most of them choose to vote as residents of that state. Of course, NASA astronauts come from everywhere, so those wishing to vote as residents of their states can partner with their constituencies to make special arrangements for voting from space.
Once their FPCA is approved, the astronaut is almost ready to vote. Like many other processes in space, voting begins with an experiment. The clerk, who runs elections for the county where the astronaut was born, sends a trial ballot to the team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The space station’s training computer is then used to check if the astronauts can fill out the ballot and send it back to the county clerk.
Following successful testing, a secure e-ballot, generated by the Harris County and adjacent Texas County Clerk’s Office, is transmitted by Johnson Mission Control Center to a member of the voting team. The county clerk sends an email to the astronaut with the crew member’s credentials. These credentials allow the crew member to access the secure bulletin.
The astronaut will then cast his vote and the secured completed ballot is broadcast downlink and delivered back to the county clerk’s office via email for formal registration. The secretary has his own password to ensure that he is the only one who can open the ballot. This is a quick process, and an astronaut must make sure to send it by 7:00 pm local time on election day if voting as a Texas resident.
Expedition 63/64 crew member Keith Rubins has been assigned to the six-month mission, launching October 14, and will vote from space. This won’t be the first time – Rubin also voted from the International Space Station during the 2016 elections.
With SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which is scheduled to deliver three additional crew members from the United States to the space station on October 31 as part of the Crew-1 mission, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker will get to the space station just in time to drop their bulletins there. … All three have completed the documents and are ready to do so.
Voting in space has been possible since 1997 when a law was passed allowing voting from outer space in Texas. Since then, several NASA astronauts have performed their civic duties from orbit. As NASA works to send astronauts to the moon in 2024 and eventually to Mars, the agency plans to continue to provide the ability for astronauts who want to vote in space, no matter where in the solar system they may be.