American astronauts will vote from space in the upcoming presidential election after launching to the International Space Station aboard a historic SpaceX mission for NASA.
This Halloween (Oct. 31), astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker will launch to the space station alongside Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi as part of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission — the first operational flight of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA. And, in addition to their many duties on the orbiting lab, the American astronauts will vote in the 2020 presidential election.
“All of us are planning on voting from space,” Walker told reporters in a news conference today (Sept. 29) about the NASA astronauts headed to the space station. “NASA works very well with different election organizations because we’re all voting from different counties. But it was easiest for us just to say we are going to vote from space. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
Walker confirmed that the three Crew-1 NASA astronauts will cast their ballots from space just days after fellow NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who will launch to the station Oct. 14, shared that she too will vote from orbit in the coming election. (Rubins will launch to the station on a Russian Soyuz capsule alongside cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.)
So, how does one vote from space? Walker said it’s fairly simple.
“I can talk about casting a ballot from space since I did it last time I was on the space station,” she said. “They basically send you an electronic file, it’s a PDF, and you mark your choices. And then you email it back to … the person who’s in charge of the election for the county [you vote in]. And so then that gets counted into all the ballots that are brought back. It’s very simple, very straightforward.”
NASA’s Mission Control helps to send that file to the crew and then send the ballots off to the astronauts’ respective county clerks to be counted. This is not the first time that astronauts have voted from space, as it is a fairly regular occurrence when astronauts have been on the space station during an election. In November, the International Space Station will mark 20 years of continuous crewed missions, so finding a way for astronauts to vote was something NASA faced early on.
The upcoming Crew-1 mission will be a major step forward for commercial spaceflight as it will be the first fully operational crewed flight for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Walker, Glover, Hopkins and Noguchi will launch to the space station Oct. 31 at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew-1 will be the first of at least six operational crewed missions flown by SpaceX to the space station as part of a $2.6 billion NASA contract struck with SpaceX in 2014.
Crew-1 follows the successful launch and return of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley as part of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. The test mission carried the astronauts to and from the space station and verified that the company’s Crew Dragon vehicle could safely do so for future crewed missions.
SpaceX is one of two commercial companies contracted by NASA to fly astronauts to and from the station. The other company is Boeing, which is developing its own Starliner space capsule for astronaut flights.