The Tax Man cometh for Americans today (April 15), and not even astronauts in space can escape their annual terrestrial taxes.
American astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson are currently living on the International Space Station as part of its six-man crew, and it's a safe bet they took care of their taxes well before they ever launched into space, NASA says.
NASA astronauts typically file taxes before launching into space, according to agency spokesman Jay Bolden at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the home of U.S. astronaut corps. [Life in Space: An Astronaut's Video Guide]
That forethought is something that NASA astronauts have not always had.
During NASA's Apollo 13 moon mission in April 1970, astronaut Jack Swigert found himself in the surprising position of being in space on Tax Day without having filed his taxes. Swigert, the command module pilot, was originally part of the backup crew for Apollo 13, and was unexpectedly bumped up to prime crew when the flight's original pilot Ken Mattingly was grounded after being exposed to the German measles (Mattingly never did get the measles).
"How do I apply for an extension?" Swigert radioed down to Mission Control when flight controllers asked the Apollo 13 crew if they'd filed their taxes before flight. "Things happened real fast down there and I do need an extension."
Swigert did get his extension, and likely a little more excitement then he bargained for on the Apollo 13 mission. NASA's Apollo 13 mission suffered a major malfunction en route to the moon when a liquid oxygen tank exploded, forcing Swigert, Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell and lunar module pilot Fred Haise to scrap their moon landing plans while NASA engineers worked to get the trio back to Earth safely.
One tax-related luxury today's astronauts should not expect any time soon is something many Americans might be doing today: filing taxes online. Loading TurboTax or some other e-filing tax software on the space station is a bit trickier than you might think.
"While there are Internet capabilities aboard the ISS, and it is 'technically feasible' it's not especially practical," Bolden said in an email. "An action like that would require substantial forethought to preprogram laptop computer with tax software or have CD uploaded with tax software info."
Mastracchio and Swanson are part of a diverse Expedition 39 crew living and working aboard the International Space Station. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata commands the mission, with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Tyurin rounding out the crew.
The station crew is preparing to welcome the arrival of an unmanned SpaceX Dragon cargo ship this month. The Dragon spacecraft was slated to launch toward the station on Monday (April 14), but SpaceX called off the attempt due to a helium leak on its Falcon 9 rocket. The mission is now slated to launch on Friday, April 18, at 3:54 p.m. EDT (1954 GMT).