Astronaut Kate Rubins will be spending Election Day in space, but she says that won’t stop her from voting.
Rubins and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station early Wednesday for a six-month mission, after the launch of their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft from Kazakhstan a few hours earlier.
NASA says the crew members will be working on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, and other sciences. Rubins, a virologist, has a particular interest in research on the coronavirus and the pursuit of a vaccine, although that won’t be part of this mission.
She also has a particular interest in the 2020 presidential election, and hers won’t be the first vote cast from space. Astronauts, she said, traditionally participate in elections enthusiastically.
“We consider it an honor,” she said in an interview last month.
So how does one vote when one is 254 miles above Earth? It’s a bit complicated.
As Rubins is a resident of Harris County, Texas, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the county clerk sends a test ballot to the Houston space center. Then with the aid of a computer a test run is conducted to determine if the voter is able to fill out the ballot and return it successfully.
If all goes well, a secure electronic ballot is uplinked to the astronaut’s computer. The completed ballot is downlinked and sent to the clerk’s office.
The entire process doesn’t take long, NASA says, and if the ballot is submitted by 7 p.m. CST on Nov. 3, it will be counted.
NASA did not indicate whether any poll watchers would be aboard the space station, but Rubins shouldn’t have much of a problem with it. She voted from space in 2016.