Very absentee ballots: How do astronauts vote?

The International Space Station zips around at 5 miles per second, 230 miles above Earth, but astronauts can still exercise their franchise.

For Election Day 2012, NASA released this pic of the patch on Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 suit. NASA

Even if you're outside the U.S., rocking the vote is relatively easy -- as long as you're on Earth. But how do you make your mark if you're an astronaut up above?

The International Space Station has been hosting international crews for 12 years, and there are now two Americans aboard: Sunita Williams and Kevin Ford.

While both voted in Russia before they left Earth, there are provisions for astronauts who want to vote from space.

Most NASA astronauts live in Houston. A 1997 bill passed by legislators in Texas allows for digital ballots to be beamed up from Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC).

It's a simple procedure. Astronauts fill out the ballots, send them back to JSC, and ground staff send them to election authorities.

The first astronaut to make use of the provision, and the first American to vote from space, was David Wolf. He was on Russia's Mir space station in 1997 when he voted in a local election.

"You might or might not expect it to mean a great deal, but when you're so removed from your planet, small things do have a large impact," Wolf told NPR in 2008.

NASA astronauts Leroy Chiao, Edward Michael Fincke, and Greg Chamitoff have voted from the ISS, according to NASA. Chiao was the first American to vote in a presidential election from space, in 2004.

If you were floating weightless, hundreds of miles above the planet, would it affect your choice?

(Via Space.com)

 

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