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Be like an astronaut: Vote!

Many of us once dreamed of becoming astronauts. But faced with the prospect of attaining an advanced aeronautics degree, enduring g-force training, and, um, drinking recycled urine, most of us opted for more mundane careers.

There is one activity, however, that Earthbound Americans can do just like the space jockeys: vote. NASA astronauts E. Michael Fincke and Gregory Chamitoff broadcast a video message today from the International Space Station (ISS) encouraging all U.S. citizens to vote in the November 4 election and vowing to do the same from the ISS, more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) above the nearest polling place.

“We’re exercising our Constitutional right and privilege in casting our ballot this Election Day,” Fincke said. “Voting is the most important statement Americans can make.” Fincke and Chamitoff will benefit from a Texas measure signed into law in 1997 by then Gov. George W. Bush that permits voters registered in the state to cast ballots from space.

Votes are beamed from the ISS on a secure electronic ballot and are forwarded to Texas elections officials for processing. (In at least one county, the votes are then transferred to a paper ballot on election night and commingled with ordinary voters’ ballots by elections officials, according to a National Public Radio report.)

The extraordinary efforts required to process two space-borne ballots highlight the importance of exercising a privilege that many Americans take for granted. If astronauts can make time to vote as they careen through space at roughly five miles per second, surely Earthlings can slog to their local polling places on Election Day. In other words, as Fincke and Chamitoff so succinctly put it in signing off, “If we can do it, so can you!”

Photograph of E. Michael Fincke courtesy of NASA

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