Outer Space

Democracy and Sports in Outer Space

Ben Taub

19 July 2012

Millions of absentee ballots will be cast by US citizens abroad for this year’s presidential election, but one woman’s vote will be cast from outer space.

Sunita Williams, an American NASA astronaut of Indian and Slovenian descent, took off in a Russian spaceship launched from Kazakhstan this Sunday — with Japanese and Russian colleagues.  The multi-national team will be working together for more than three months at the International Space Station.

But Williams isn’t going to forget her civic duties during her cosmic adventure.  She’s planning to vote in the US presidential election on an absentee ballot.  A registered Florida voter, Williams is perpetuating the democratic process through NASA’s “Voting from Space” program, according to the Times of India.

Being 240 miles off the surface of the earth doesn’t mean she can’t watch sports, too.  An avid athlete during her college years, the 46-year-old astronaut intends to watch the 2012 London Olympic games with her foreign colleagues at the space station.

Williams sees parallels between the Olympics and the space hub.  “It’s an international competition to foster friendship, and I think that’s exactly what the International Space Station is.”

Even if she’s not an Olympic athlete, Williams has plenty of (out of this) world records under her belt.  According to NASA, she set the records for longest spaceflight (195 days), number of spacewalks (four), and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours 17 minutes) for a female astronaut.

Traveling abord the International Space Station, Williams is orbiting the earth at 300 miles per minute.  Take that, Usain Bolt.


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