NASA to Comedian Colbert: You Can Jump on This
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration this evening decided on the winner of an online contest to name its next module to fly to the International Space Station, announcing on a television show that comedian Stephen Colbert would not be the recipient of NASA's honors.
The space agency recently opened up naming rights for one of the crucial pieces for the completion of the space station (or ISS) to the American public in a poll on its website (please see NASA: You Name the Next Space Station Module). It offered a handful of suggested names but also included an option for participants to cast write-in ballots.
In response, Colbert last month launched an on-air campaign for viewers of his popular mock conservative talk show to pencil in his own name online for the prize. And the game was afoot. The comedian included his fictional crusade for recognition of his status as an American icon in every episode of his nightly show as a tweaking of the nerdy attempt by NASA to reach out to the public in the era of twittering Internet sensations.
The resulting publicity caught staid, old-fashioned NASA with its pants down. Online voters cast an enormous amount of write-ins for "Colbert," passing a somewhat disenfranchised community of sci-fi enthusiasts who flocked to the suggested name "Serenity" (after another popular TV franchise). Rules of the contest, though, stipulated that NASA reserved all rights to exercise its best judgment as to the winning entry.
Appearing as a guest tonight on Colbert's report on humorous topics in the news, called The Colbert Report, NASA Deputy Chief Sunita Williams (who spent over six months on the ISS as an astronaut) said that "Node 3 will be called Tranquility."
Colbert instantly feigned agitated disappointment (with boos erupting from his studio audience) but teasingly played out the sly cat-and-mouse intrigue with Williams. She winkingly noted that NASA had, indeed, listened to the snarky pundit's followers and respected their outcry.
"Your name will be in space, in a very important place," Williams announced. "The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, the COLBERT."
The audience at the Comedy Central show then exploded in laughter at the denouement, previously orchestrated by TV producers and the space agency's public relations group.
"I understand that running on the treadmill will be what powers the space station," Colbert replied dryly.
Not missing a beat, Williams (who is famed for her long-distance running on treadmills in space) shot back at the acerbic actor that future astronauts and cosmonauts will be able to pronounce, "It's time for me to jump on COLBERT."
Finally succumbing to absurdity, Colbert grudgingly acknowledged defeat by whimpering, "Thanks to NASA for acquiescing to [my] demands. I will see you and my treadmill in space." And he led his audience in a round of applause for a real American space hero right in front of their eyes.
A spokesperson for NASA subsequently stated that the COLBERT treadmill will be installed this August on the science platform in orbit.