Super Tuesday 2024: Can astronauts cast their ballots from space? - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Super Tuesday 2024: Can astronauts cast their ballots from space? Here's all you need to know

ByShweta Kukreti
Mar 05, 2024 08:34 PM IST

Super Tuesday 2024: Astronaut David Wolf became the first American to cast a ballot from the decommissioned Mir space station.

As 15 states and a United States territory are conducting their 2024 nominating contests on Super Tuesday, voters will go to nearby schools and churches to cast their ballots. But, will those living 250 miles above the Earth be able to vote during Super Tuesday 2024?

NASA astronauts aboard the SpaceX Dragon, named Endeavour, have reached the International Space Station.(NASA)
NASA astronauts aboard the SpaceX Dragon, named Endeavour, have reached the International Space Station.(NASA)

Astronauts usually go on a mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for at least six months. However, in some cases, like Frank Rubio, the mission can exceed for one year. Astronauts, who are away from Earth for an extended period of time, risk skipping some significant elections.

Unlock exclusive access to the story of India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now!

Fortunately, NASA has had procedures in place since the late 1990s to make sure that intrepid spacefarers can continue to engage in democracy.

Ahead of the Super Tuesday, four more astronauts joined the seven others on the ISS. Here is how they can cast their ballots, if they want to vote.

Also Read: Why is Super Tuesday key to US elections? All you need to know

Who was the first astronaut to vote from space?

In 1997, then-Gov. George W. Bush approved the state legislature's bill into law, establishing a provision in the Texas Administrative Code that allows for early voting from space, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2020

And luckily in that same year, astronaut David Wolf became the first American to cast a ballot from the decommissioned Mir space station. Following this, NASA joked, "vote while you float".

“It's something that, you know, you might or might not expect it to mean a great deal," Astronaut Wolf said while speaking to NPR in 2008. "But when you're so removed from your planet, small things do have a large impact."

Also Read: Super Tuesday: California has emerged as most enticing race, here's why

Since Wolf debuted voting from space, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins has also voted from orbit - and not just once but twice. She first voted in the 2016 presidential election from the ISS and then again in 2020, according to NASA.

Rubins' vote was routed through NASA's Near Space Network, which is operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "After Rubins filled out her specially designed, electronic absentee ballot aboard the orbiting laboratory, the document flowed through a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite to a ground antenna at the White Sands Complex in Las Cruces, New Mexico," NASA said.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins first voted in the 2016 presidential election from the ISS and then again in 2020.(NASA)
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins first voted in the 2016 presidential election from the ISS and then again in 2020.(NASA)

How do astronauts cast their ballots?

Astronauts can vote in local, state, and federal elections but the procedure gets started a year before the launch of their mission.

Here's how astronauts send ballot from the International Space Station through NASA’s Near Space Network.(ISS)
Here's how astronauts send ballot from the International Space Station through NASA’s Near Space Network.(ISS)

Six months before the polls, they are provided with a standard form similar to absentee ballots, which many Americans use to vote. Once the forms are uplinked to NASA's Johnson Space Center Mission Control, astronauts use special credentials to retrieve the ballot, cast their ballots, and send them down to Earth to the local county clerk's office for counting, stated the US space agency.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On