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updated 11/2/2010 1:28:19 PM ET 2010-11-02T17:28:19

Three American astronauts flying on the International Space Station may be far from home, but they're not left out of today's Election Day fervor. They still get to vote from space.

NASA's astronauts live in or around Houston and the three Americans on the space station U.S. Army Col. Douglas Wheelock, physicist Shannon Walker and Navy Capt. Scott Kelly have had the option to vote for their local county elections from 220 miles (354 kilometers) above Earth.

To help space station crewmembers stay involved with their local politics, NASA has made arrangements with county officials that allow astronauts to vote from space. The ballots are prepared by county officials and beamed up from Mission Control.

"I voted on Sunday through an electronic e-mail system," Kelly told reporters via a video link on Tuesday. "I think Texas actually passed a law where we could vote from space, and it felt like an honor and privilege to exercise our rights as U.S. citizens from the International Space Station."

American astronauts have been able to vote from space since 1997 due to a Texas law passed to grant them the ability. The first American to vote from space was astronaut David Wolf, who was living on Russia's Mir space station at election time in 1997.

In order to give the astronauts time to vote when their busy schedules allow, the ballots for Tuesday's election have been available for the station crew since last week.

"Plans were in place to make it available for the crew, and we believe all three are going to vote," NASA spokeswoman Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters told Space.com.

Kelly confirmed that, indeed, all three of the Americans on the space station are voting in the elections.

Once the astronauts vote, the ballots are then beamed back to Mission Control and delivered to their respective county clerk's office. The three astronauts on the space station live in Texas' Galveston and Harris Counties, Cloutier-Lemasters said.

By coincidence, Tuesday was also the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first crew at the International Space Station. The station has been inhabited continuously by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts ever since. [10 Years of Astronauts on the Space Station]

There's another group of astronauts that took steps to ensure that Tuesday's elections didn't pass them by.

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The six-astronaut crew of space shuttle Discovery is poised to launch toward the International Space Station on Wednesday. The shuttle astronauts are in Florida preparing for liftoff, so that means they are missing their local elections.

Discovery commander Steve Lindsey said last month that he and his crew planned to take advantage of early voting and absentee ballot opportunities to make sure they voted before leaving the planet.

NASA shuttle launch officials urged the flight controllers and engineers who were going to be working Tuesday to do the same.

Discovery is scheduled to launch at 3:52 p.m. ET Wednesday. The shuttle will fly an 11-day mission to deliver a new storage module and humanoid robot to the International Space Station.

The mission will be the 39th and final flight of Discovery, as well as the 133rd shuttle mission for NASA's fleet.

NASA is retiring its three-shuttle fleet in 2011 to make way for a new space plan aimed at sending astronauts to visit an asteroid and eventually Mars.

Discovery is one of NASA's two final scheduled shuttle missions before the fleet is retired, though the space agency is hoping for final funding approval to fly an extra mission in 2011 to deliver more spare parts and supplies to the International Space Station.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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