If you're reading this and you haven't voted yet, I hope you're on your smartphone in line at the polling place nearest you. Yes, I know you're busy — we all are. But there are some people whose schedules are even more demanding and they still make it happen. Take a look at the American astronaut on the International Space Station. He was orbiting the Earth this week about 249 miles up, and yet his ballot will still be counted. So if an astronaut can vote from space, you can make it to the ballot box, too.
NASA announced Monday on Tumblr that astronaut Shane Kimbrough had sent in his ballot to Texas election officials at some point over the past few days. From space. Thanks to a Texas law passed in 1997, astronauts, nearly all of whom live in the state (the Johnson Space Center is in Houston), have a way to get their ballot in. The way it works is that the astronauts are sent an electronic ballot from Mission Control, which once it's filled out, sends it back to the county clerk via email. Not too difficult — NASA has deemed the process, "Vote while you float."
Kimbrough is the only American astronaut in the International Space Station at the moment — the other two are Russian — but he will not be the only one voting from space this year. His predecessor in space, Kate Rubins, also voted via space absentee a few weeks ago before heading back to Earth. She talked about the process in a video for Space.com and shared why it's so important. "It's very incredible that we can vote from up here, and I think that it's incredibly important for us to vote in all of the elections," Rubins told Space.com.
Rubins can watch the new president be chosen just like you or me since she returned Oct. 30, but Kimbrough won't be back on Earth until February, and by then the new president will have been inaugurated. He said that astronauts are "pretty much apolitical" last month, even though he is excited to vote vote from space. "I'll be glad to welcome the new president, whoever that is," Kimbrough added.
The first astronaut to vote from space was David Wolf in 1997, the same year that the law passed. Sounds pretty cool, but NASA pointed out the one downside, "While astronauts don’t have to wait in line for his ballot like the rest of us, there is one disadvantage to voting in space: they miss out on the highly coveted 'I Voted' sticker."
So go get yours today. Take off time from work if you need to — and, yes, you need to. Go vote.