When first hearing about Kate Rubins, the NASA astronaut who’s currently in a space station 200 miles above Earth but was able to vote last week, I was excitedly curious about the process. Did NASA create a hologram Kate to enter a booth and cast a vote? Did a bewinged USPS truck travel to space to pick up and deliver her ballot back to Earth? Was she momentarily teleported down from the station with a transporter? The potential transporter technology was particularly exciting, especially for the chance of quicker Uber Eats deliveries. Unfortunately, the actual method was much less interesting.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located in Houston, so most astronauts are based in the city and registered to vote in Harris County, where Houston is located.
The space-voting process works like this, NASA told CNN last month: The Harris County Clerk’s Office uploads a secure electronic ballot to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Mission Control Center. NASA astronauts, using specific credentials, access their ballot and cast their vote, which is delivered back to the county clerk’s office by email.
This all seems rather straightforward and efficient, which might be surprising when considering the Kafkaesque nature of American political systems. But when there’s an agenda-less desire possessed by everyone involved to make a complicated experience as easy as possible, shit usually gets figured out! People can figure things out when we want to figure them out—even the government! And it’s easier for Kate Rubins to vote for an American president while 200 miles from Earth than it is for a Black person literally on American soil in Atlanta because each political entity involved with the voting process actually wants her to vote. And we’re not even sure if that’s really Kate up there. It could be an alien Katie that ate the real Kate, cloned her, and just happens to be from a planet with an arbitrarily specific desire to vote in other planets’ elections. We’re not there. We don’t know! (Humans get catfished all the time, so why would we be immune to alien catfishing?) Which means that even Possibly Alien Kate from Andromeda has an easier time voting than Definitely Human Terrell from Brooklyn.