NASA has detailed how its astronauts vote in the US presidential election from space, showing off a picture of the ‘voting booth’ built on the International Space Station. The tricky part, of course, is securely transmitting the votes from the ISS to NASA, but the space agency has a special system in place that makes this possible.
Astronauts retain their right to vote even when they’re cruising in a space station far above the Earth — this has been the case since a bill was passed back in 1997, allowing astronaut David Wolf to become the first American to cast a vote from space.
For privacy’s sake, the International Space Station is equipped with a makeshift voting booth. NASA showed this structure off in a new photo this week alongside astronaut Kate Rubins who has already voted in space once before. How does the process work?
The space agency shared an infographic to make understanding the process simple. After filling out their ballots, the data is then encrypted and uploaded to the ISS’s computer. From there, the ISS transmits the encrypted votes using NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites system (TDRS).
The TDRS then shuttles the data to the White Sands Complex in New Mexico. The data’s travel doesn’t stop there, with White Sands’ TDRS ground terminal passing the data on to the Johnson Space Center in Texas. Finally, the Johnson Space Center passes the data along electronically to each astronaut’s county clerks to be properly filed as a vote.