"The name Colbert doesn't quite fit with NASA's theme" - well, it should

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stephen Colbert interviewing astronaut Garrett Reisman on the International Space Station in 2008.

I just voted for the name Colbert here as the new name for Node 3. I was wondering how long it would take for Stephen Colbert to notice that NASA was holding a contest to give a new name to its node on the International Space Station, and it didn't take long:

Comedian Stephen Colbert, who couldn't get his mock presidential campaign off the ground, is polling better by aiming higher. He's convinced his many fans to write in his name in NASA's online public vote to name a new room to be added to the international space station.

So instead of NASA's suggested choices -- Serenity, Legacy, Earthrise or Venture -- the space station's new addition may wind up with the name "Colbert."

The count by mid-Tuesday had votes for the comedian just shy of 115,000 and Serenity trailing at 98,641. More than 451,000 people have voted.

Nevertheless it's still doubtful that this name will be chosen because NASA isn't bound to accept the results:
NASA has a legalistic out. Its contest rules say voting results "are not binding on NASA and NASA reserves the right to ultimately select a name" in keeping with its best interests.
It would be in the best interests of NASA to name the module Colbert if the name happens to win though, simply for all the free attention the ISS would receive from the show. Colbert has already carried out an interview with ISS astronaut Garrett Reisman both when he was on the station and afterwards, often brings Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the show (here and here), and has a ton of other features and interviews that have a lot to do with space and science. That is, in spite of the satirical nature of the show the real Stephen Colbert does a lot for the promotion of space and exploration in the national consciousness. Each one of these interviews usually results in about 30 - 50,000 hits, which perhaps isn't much compared to the two talking cats or the dramatic chipmunk, but along with being broadcast on tv before being put online it's still a fair amount of publicity.

Colbert has failed to get his name put on a number of other projects though and of course won't hold a grudge if this current attempt fails (so we'll still have interviews with DeGrasse Tyson and astronauts and physicists and all the rest), but just imagine the publicity the ISS will receive if the current Node 3 receives the name Colbert and he starts a feature on what's going on now in "his" node of the ISS.

Plus, the name Colbert (col-berh) is French, so that makes it a name with more of an international outreach than something like Serenity (a French loanword but still pronounced in an English fashion - surrenatee).


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