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Science News

U.S. astronaut crew on SpaceX's Crew Dragon to cast ballots from space

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three NASA astronauts launching next month on SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon mission plan to vote in the upcoming presidential election from the International Space Station, the crew said Tuesday as they named the spacecraft “Resilience.”

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience capsule will carry NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the space station Oct. 31 as the company’s first non-test mission after completing a successful two-man preliminary mission last summer.

“All of us are planning on voting from space,” Walker told a news conference, explaining that the three U.S. astronauts will fill out an electronic PDF file aboard the station some 250 miles above Earth and email it to elections officials.

The crew’s more than six month mission in space, enabled by SpaceX’s new gumdrop-shaped Crew Dragon space capsule, comes as NASA regains its capability of sending astronauts to space after nearly a decade-long dependence on Russia’s Soyuz vehicles.

Following tradition from SpaceX’s last crewed mission named “Endeavor,” which ended in August with a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, Hopkins said the crew chose the name “Resilience” as a tribute to a “challenging” 2020.

“I think all of us can agree that 2020 has certainly been a challenging year,” Hopkins said, adding that SpaceX and NASA have pressed on with launch plans despite a slew of events like the “global pandemic, economic hardships, civil unrest, isolation” that have punctuated this year.

SpaceX made a few tweaks to Crew Dragon’s heat shield and altitude sensors after analyzing data from the summer test flight carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the company’s Crew Dragon chief Benji Reed said during a separate press conference on Tuesday.

Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and David Gregorio

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