NASA may consider putting Stephen Colbert's name on a space toilet, after the comedian came out on top of the U.S. space agency's online naming poll for a new space module.
The eponymous host of "The Colbert Report" swept in as a dark-horse challenger after urging viewers to enter his name through a write-in option. When voting ended March 20, "Colbert" had amassed more than 230,000 votes to beat out second-place name "Serenity" by more than 40,000 votes.
"Come on, Serenity?" Colbert said on his March 10 show. "That's not a space module, that's a Glade plug-in."
The Node 3 module contains eight fridge-sized racks for many of the space station's life support systems, such as the new space toilet, as well as an observation deck that contains a work station for the International Space Station's 57-foot robotic arm. It is currently slated for launch later this year to the space station.
Colbert pressed NASA's human space flight chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, to name the space module after him during a show on March 10. But Gerstenmaier was noncommittal, saying only that the space agency would have to "think about that" as the votes came in.
"That's NASA's problem," Colbert said. "You guys think too much."
As it became clear that "Colbert" was likely to win the popular vote, NASA insiders told SPACE.com, agency personnel floated the idea of naming the station's new toilet "Colbert."
"As for the toilet rumor, we don't want to flush away any goodwill by announcing something before we are ready," Yembrick said.
The Node 3 naming contest attracted nearly 1.2 million votes, with other write-in suggestions also coming in strong. "Myyearbook" placed third behind "Serenity" with 147,637 votes, while "Gaia" finished fourth at "114,427."
NASA recently opened a new naming contest for its Mars Science Laboratory rover on Monday, although no write-in option exists there.
But the U.S. space agency has expressed strong interest in incorporating public opinion, as evidenced by previous naming contests for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and the Harmony space station module. That means "Colbert" fans may want to keep watch for the official announcement next month.
"We haven't decided on a name yet, but we're certainly not going to ignore more than 230,000 'Colbert' votes from the public," Yembrick noted.
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