Astronauts, like any other citizen are entitled to vote. The United States has charged that to exercise their rights even if they are hundreds of kilometers into the sky.
Just a few weeks away to the day of elections in the US and tempers are already running high . Beyond political issues, the modern world poses some the less curious questions. For example, in a country where democracy is so serious about how they get that all its citizens have the opportunity to vote?The question is not simple, especially if you find yourself “stuck” in a cubicle orbiting more than 300 kilometers on your country. But the problem is solved and the astronauts exercise their right to vote as anyone else. That’s how they do it .
The system is truly simple. For years, depending on the state, US citizens have several possibilities to choose the “absentee ballot“, i.e, vote from outside your state or country of residence. Astronauts are no exception. The system roughly works by sending through various entities and arrangements to receive the “ballots”, fill them and send them back to the authorities who run the vote. In the case of the astronauts who want to vote, this process works by sending e – mail such ballots secure the international space station in PDF.
From there, the astronauts filled their vote and send it back to Mission Control, located at Johnson Space Center in Houston. From there, the vote secret, are made to reach the authorities to execute the vote like any other absentee ballot. It’s funny because this type of vote, as we said, is possible because Texas, that allows absentee voting justified since 1997. The vast majority of astronauts reside (for logistical reasons) near Houston, so they can abide by the law without problems.
The movement that defends the right to vote of the astronauts began in the nineties with Clyton Susan, wife of Clayton Anderson, one of the astronauts of mission STS-117 in 2007. The first to use this system was the astronaut David Wolf, from the Russian MIR in 1997 . to date, there are several astronauts who have exercised their right to vote from space without any incident. The astronauts, for obvious reasons, value their privacy above all.Although technically a vote is worth the same as any other, in such a country like the US media this is a half truth.
An astronaut is considered a hero. Although there are more media friendly astronauts others, the vote of an astronaut, like that of other relevant public figure, is able to condition the vote of a large number of people . So, both authorities NASA and the astronauts themselves put special effort that their votes are as discreet and private as possible. This may be especially relevant if we consider that there is a remote data transmission (far behind), making the information vulnerable.
But as we explained, NASA uses coded emails and certificates so that ballots can be opened and manipulated only by astronauts and the competent authorities.In this way they ensure that democracy remains a private and intimate right. It is also a curious fact see that it seems easier to vote from the International Space Station from other sites on the Earth ‘s surface . For example, to date it is almost impossible to vote from offshore or from solitary confinement places.In the case of Spain, with a striking third elections looming, the question is also important. A Spanish astronaut could not exercise their right to vote from space. At the end of the day , the main barrier against remains the communication channel; followed by the election laws, of course. But back to the astronauts, what will happen when we have to vote, for example, from Mars? Hopefully we can deal with that question face to face.