Comedian Stephen Colbert is pulling out all the stops in his campaign to have NASA name a new room of the international space station after him.
"Well you voted, folks and look what happened," Colbert said Monday night on his faux-conservative show "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central. "Unfortunately, Houston may have a problem with it."
Colbert urged his viewers to write his name in during NASA's recent voting poll to name Node 3, a new room for the space station that will launch on a future shuttle mission. The move apparently worked, with Colbert's write-in name nabbing more than 230,000 votes, beating NASA's top suggestion Serenity by more than 40,000 votes.
There has been some speculation on how NASA will respond to Colbert's popularity in space. NASA has said that while it reserves the right to have the final word on Node 3's name, it would take write-in suggestions into consideration.
"We're still thinking about it," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, on Saturday.
Some sources have suggested that NASA will meet Colbert's audience halfway by opting to name the space toilet for Node 3 after the comedian. Gerstenmaier, however, shared little during a Saturday briefing after the shuttle Discovery landed in Florida.
"We have a plan and we're working with some folks," Gerstenmaier said. "And in a couple of weeks, you'll know what the answer is."
In addition to writing in their suggestions, voters were given the opportunity to select a name from NASA's list — Serenity, Earthrise, Legacy and Venture.
"Serenity? That's not a space station, that's an adult diaper," Colbert said.
Congress for Colbert
Node 3 is a new room for the space station that will launch aboard a NASA shuttle. It will include an astronaut toilet, eight refrigerator-sized equipment racks and much of the station's life support gear. It will also be the site of an observation portal to serve as the main workstation for the orbiting lab's robotic arm.
"Now for laymen out there, a space node is a node-like structure that is attached to other nodes in space in a ... I don't know what it is, but I want it!" Colbert said in Monday night's episode.
Colbert has drawn support for his name not only from the public, but also Congress.
In a March 26 statement, Congressman Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., urged NASA to respect the results of the agency's online poll.
"NASA decided to hold an election to name its new room at the International Space Station and the clear winner is Stephen Colbert," Fattah said in the statement. "The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square — even if his campaign was a bit over the top."
Fattah pointed out that NASA's top choice Serenity finished well behind Colbert's name.
"When Americans look to the sky, they may see 'Serenity' but there will be no serenity here on Earth," Fattah said.
Colbert also enlisted the support of Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer for Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, during Monday night's "Colbert Report."
"As an astronomer, basically you are an ambassador for space," Colbert said. "Do you agree with him that the node should be named after me?"
"I think that's something that NASA's going to have to figure out, but you know, it could be a good idea," Pitts replied during a discussion about Galileo.
NASA's top vote-getter Serenity is a moniker that is also, coincidentally, the name of the fictional spaceship in the "Firefly" science fiction television series.
While Serenity came in second, it was the only NASA-selected name to make the top three. Coming in third was the write-in selection "Myyearbook" with 147,637 votes, with the write-in "Gaia" a solid fourth with 114,427 votes. In all, the naming poll received about 1.2 million votes.
"So NASA, I urge you to heed Congressman Fattah's call for democracy in orbit," Colbert said. "Either name that node after me, or I too will reject democracy and seize power as space's evil tyrant overlord. Ball's in your court."
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