From about 250 kilometers above the earth, orbiting the planet 17,500 kilometers per hour aboard the International Space Station, the American astronaut Kathleen Rubins decided her choice in the election and joined millions of others across the country who voted early.
“If we can do it from space, I think people can do it from the ground,” she said in a video posted on NASA’s website.
An astronaut and marine biologist, Dr. Rubins, who passes Kate, was the first person to sequence DNA in space during a 2016 mission. On her current assignment, she conducts experiments related to the cardiovascular system.
As it turns out, Dr. Rubins would have had an easier time voting from space than if she were back on earth.
In New York, where early voting began on Saturday, tens of thousands of voters waited hours to vote, with lines stretching for blocks outside polling stations. Similar scenes have been reported in other states.
With election day still eight days left, more than 60 million Americans have already voted, surpassing 2016’s early turnout.
Astronauts have been voting from space since 1997, when Texas lawmakers instituted a technical procedure that allowed them to vote. Many astronauts choose to register in Texas because they train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Dr. Rubins skipped the queues, but had to take a few extra steps to vote from space. Only before her rocket launch did she signal her intention to participate in the election by filling out a Federal Postcard Application, the same form filled out by military members serving outside the United States, NASA said in a post on its website.
The next step, like most things at NASA, involved a test drive. The county office sent a test vote to a team at the Houston Space Center, where officials checked to see if they could fill out the ballot and send it back.
After the test, the space center’s mission control center informed Dr. Rubin’s vote. From space, she decided her vote, which officials downgraded and delivered back to the county administrator’s office via email.
Dr. Rubin’s vote, cast last week, arrived well before 7pm for astronauts’ election day.