Back in 1997, a bill passed by the Texas Legislature allowed NASA astronauts to vote from space.
US Elections 2020: NASA astronaut casts vote from International Space Station! As part of the exercise to decide the next President of the United States of America, US citizens could either vote on the election day, or choose early voting or even cast votes through absentee ballots, which became even more necessary during the coronavirus pandemic. But what about American citizens who are not on Earth right now? Well, the distance is not going to stop them from participating in democracy. And this became possible with the help of the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) infrastructure of NASA, the space agency said in a statement.
Back in 1997, a bill passed by the Texas Legislature allowed NASA astronauts to vote from space. That same year, David Wolf, a NASA astronaut, had become the first US citizen to vote from space, while he was aboard the Mir Space Station. The history repeated itself on Tuesday, when NASA astronaut Kate Rubins cast her vote for the elections from the International Space Station, which is located 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.
How does NASA facilitate voting from space?
Rubin had a specially designed electronic absentee ballot through which she cast her vote. Her ballot was transmitted much like the other data that is transferred between the space station and the Earth. Her ballot traversed through the Space Network, which is managed by the Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Centre of NASA. Once Rubins filled out her ballot, the electronic document went via a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and was received at a ground antenna located at the White Sands Complex in New Mexico.
From there, the ballot was transmitted by the space agency to the Mission Control Centre at the Johnson Space Centre located in Houston. It was then sent to the county clerk who has been tasked with casting the ballot.
The entire process had been encrypted so that no one other than Rubins or the clerk could access the vote she cast so as to maintain the integrity of the voting process.