Published April 17, 2012
You can't hide from the tax man, not even in space.
Tax day comes for all Americans on Tuesday (April 17), including the two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station, which is zipping around our planet at an altitude of 240 miles (386 kilometers).
But Dan Burbank and Don Pettit — who have been living on the station since November and December, respectively — are probably not racing to beat the tax filing deadline like a lot of us poor Earthbound folks. Procrastination and the astronaut vocation tend not to mix well, since spaceflyers have little free time on orbit, NASA officials said.
"Most astronauts assigned to long-duration missions make arrangements to file their taxes as well as other personal business and housekeeping matters in advance of their mission," NASA spokeswoman Nicole Cloutier told SPACE.com via email. "There is a crewmember support team that helps remind assigned crewmembers (via pre-flight briefings and checklists) to prepare for these types of practical matters preflight."
That's not to say that it's impossible to take care of your Earthly business while aboard the orbiting outpost. It does have Internet access, after all.
"Scott Kelly, who flew last year as commander of the International Space Station for [Expedition] 26, said he was able to use the onboard Internet (called CSL, or Crew Support LAN) to purchase an airline ticket, gifts and some online banking during his expedition," Cloutier said.
While space travel can complicate many aspects of your daily life — astronauts have to exercise like fiends when in orbit to keep their bones and muscles from wasting away, for example — taxes don't seem to be one of them. There's no IRS form for "off-Earth income," but even if there were, Pettit and Burbank might not even have to fill it out.
"The on-orbit crewmembers receive $3.00 per day per diem, tax free (as with all government per diem)," Cloutier said.
Burbank and Pettit are currently sharing the space station with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Oleg Kononenko, as well as Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers. The six spaceflyers make up the orbiting lab's Expedition 30, and Burbank is its commander.
Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin are due to return to Earth on April 27 to wrap up their months-long space mission.