NASA astronaut describes the 'honor' and 'duty' of voting in space

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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, the only American not on the planet, said the experience of voting in space is special.

“It’s an honor for us,” she said in response to a question from Fox News during a press conference from the International Space Station on Friday.

Rubins, who cast her vote from the ISS on Oct. 22, described voting as a duty. “We feel very lucky to vote from space,” she added.


“It’s actually pretty similar to the process of voting by absentee ballot from home,” the astronaut explained. She noted that the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) that astronauts use is the same that military personnel and their families use when they are overseas. “I don’t know that I am technically overseas,” she quipped. “The ballot is encrypted to us – we send it back down.”

The astronaut used her small crew quarters on the orbiting space lab as a voting booth, complete with a makeshift sign.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins outside the voting booth on the International Space Station.

NASA has a motto of “vote while you float” for astronauts.

“Like other forms of absentee voting, voting from space starts with a Federal Postcard Application, or FPCA,” NASA says on its website. “It’s the same form military members and their families fill out while serving outside of the U.S. By completing it ahead of their launch, space station crew members signal their intent to participate in an election from space.”

Once the FCPA is approved, the county clerk who manages elections in the astronaut’s home county sends a test ballot to a team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. A space station test computer is then used to test whether it can be filled out and sent back to the county clerk.


“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. “An email with crew member-specific credentials is sent from the county clerk to the astronaut. These credentials allow the crew member to access the secure ballot.”

“The astronaut will then cast their vote, and the secure, completed ballot is downlinked and delivered back to the County Clerk’s Office by email to be officially recorded,” NASA adds. “The clerk has their own password to ensure they are the only one who can open the ballot. It’s a quick process, and the astronaut must be sure to submit it by 7 p.m. local time on Election Day if voting as a Texas resident.”

In 2016, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who at the time was the only American not on the planet, voted in the presidential election from the ISS.

The system was first employed in 1997 for former astronaut David Wolf when he was flying a long-duration mission on the old Russian space station Mir. Because Wolf’s mission spanned Election Day, the process was set up to enable him to vote in space, NASA explained.


Rubins also voted in space four years ago during a 115-day stint on the floating space laboratory, casting a ballot prior to her return to Earth on Oct. 30, 2016.

The astronaut’s latest stint on the space station started on Oct. 14, when she reached the orbiting space lab after a “fast-track” journey on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Her latest mission on the ISS is scheduled to last six months.

The astronaut and her fellow space station crewmembers, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, used Friday’s press conference to discuss the upcoming 20th anniversary of the orbiting space lab. Nov. 2 marks the 20th anniversary of humans living and working continuously on the International Space Station.


“For me, the work inside here, it feels great,” said Rubins. “It’s like I was back here in 2016.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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