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US Election 2016: NASA Astronauts Cast Vote From International Space Station

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NASA astronauts who work at the International Space Station (ISS) may be away from planet Earth during election time, but this does not mean they can't participate in the elections.

Rule 81.35

A bill passed by Texas legislature in 1997 has made it possible for astronauts stationed at the ISS to cast their ballot from space. The law put in place the technical procedures involved so astronauts get the chance to cast their vote even if they are working in orbit.

Rule 81.35 was born after former Texas State Senator Mike Jackson expressed his disappointment that there is no way for astronauts to vote while they are working in space. The senator's district included NASA's Johnson Space Center. Jackson stressed the importance of one person's vote, citing that he won his first election by only seven votes.

The first American astronaut who benefited from this rule was David Wolf, who voted from the Russian Mir space station in 1997.

NASA Astronauts Vote For US Presidential Election 2016

The latest American astronaut to cast his ballot from space is Shane Kimbrough. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who has already returned from her space mission, also filed a ballot before she returned to Earth, a cautious move in case her trip back to Earth would get delayed.

How Voting From Space Works

Voting from space is done through an absentee ballot that is transmitted to and from the orbiting laboratory via a secure electronic connection. The address on the ballots of astronauts voting from space reads "low Earth orbit."

"For astronauts, the voting process starts a year before launch, when astronauts are able to select which elections (local/state/federal) that they want to participate in while in space," NASA explained. "Then, six months before the election, astronauts are provided with a standard form: the 'Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request - Federal Post Card Application.'"

Kimbrough voted from space sometime over the last few days after the U.S. space agency beamed a digital copy of a Texas absentee ballot to the ISS. The filled-up ballot is then sent to election officials in Houston.

Clinton, Trump And The Future Of US Space Program

The votes of astronauts are particularly important because of the two presidential candidates' different views on the country's space program.

Donald Trump has said that he would support joint projects between NASA and private space companies. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, also supports private companies but thinks that the future of cosmological discovery still lies in the hands of NASA.

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