Astronauts in Space Encourage Americans to Vote

Astronauts to Vote From Space Station
Expedition 18 commander Michael Fincke (right) and flight engineer Greg Chamitoff encourage Americans to vote in a NASA video recorded aboard the International Space Station. The two astronauts are the fifth and sixth Americans to vote from space.
(Image: © NASA TV.)

NASA astronautson Earth and in space have sent in their votes for the U.S. presidential election and encouragedall Americans to remember to cast their own ballots today.

Spacestation commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Greg Chamitoff beamedtheir votes to Earth on Monday usinga secure electronic ballot that was routed to their local County Clerk?sOffice by Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

?Today isvoting day aboard the International Space Station,? Fincke said Monday on NASATV.

?If we can votefrom up here, so can you,? Chamitoff said as the station flew 220 miles (354km) above Earth.

The twospaceflyers are only the fifth and sixth American citizens ever to vote fromspace since 1997, when Texas lawmakers passed a state law that allowsastronauts to cast ballots while living off Earth.

In additionto Fincke and Chamitoff, only one other NASA astronaut - veteran spaceflyerLeroy Chiao - has voted in a presidential election from orbit. Chiao, who hassince retired from spaceflight, voted in the 2004 election while commanding thestation?s Expedition 10 mission.

Fincke andChamitoff said they hoped their example of voting from orbit might encourageAmerican citizens on Earth to exercise their own right to vote.

?It's also toshow the rest of our country that [while] I'm so busy up in space, even I canvote, so you on the ground should be able to vote, too,? Fincke told SPACE.combefore flight. ?It's a privilege and an honor, so hopefully we'll get somepeople excited.?

TheAmerican public may not need too much of a boost. According to reports from theAssociated Press, voterturnout has been high, leading to long lines at polling stations across thenation.

While the station?sU.S. crewmembers voted Monday, NASA space shuttle commander Chris Ferguson saidMonday that he and his crew made sure to vote early before their planned Nov.14 launch aboard Endeavour.

?My wifeand I stood in line for two hours on Friday night so we could early vote, and I?veheard of other crewmembers talking about their experiences for making suretheir vote gets in,? he told SPACE.com on Monday. ?I was reallypleasantly surprised by the local voter output.?

Fergusonand six NASA astronauts are poised to launchto the space station on Nov. 14 at 7:55 p.m. EST (0055 Nov. 15 GMT) on a15-day mission to deliver a new crewmember, install gear to help double theoutpost?s crew size, as well as perform four complicated spacewalks to repair abalky solar array joint.

UnlikeFerguson, who voted in Houston, Endeavour mission specialist Steve Bowen votedin his home state of Florida with an absentee ballot. He said he was lookingforward to the results of today?s election no matter which presidentialcandidate won, be it John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

?Everychange is an opportunity,? Bowen said Monday. ?So we?ll see what happens.?

While Fergusonjoked that he only urged his crew to make sure they got their flu shots (tomake sure no one gets sick during the mission) before launch, but he wasconfident his crewmates took time from their busy training schedule to casttheir votes. ?

?I knowthat all the crewmembers are very interested in where the future of thepresidency lies and I?m sure they?ve all voted,? Ferguson said.

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