NASA will announce on Tuesday the name it has chosen for a new space station module with help from comedian Stephen Colbert, who has campaigned for weeks to have it named for him.
The U.S. space agency said today that it will reveal the official name of Node 3 — a new room for the international space station — on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."
"The program is having us on knowing that we have chosen a name, but they do not know the name of the node," NASA spokesperson John Yembrick told SPACE.com from the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. "To be honest, only a handful of people know at this point."
The name was chosen a few days ago and will be revealed by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who lived aboard the space station for nearly seven months between 2006 and 2007, Yembrick said.
"I certainly hope NASA does the right thing," said Colbert. "Just kidding, I hope they name it after me."
Naming Node 3
Node 3 is a cylindrical room slated to be delivered to the space station in February 2010 aboard a NASA space shuttle. It will serve as the hub for much of the space station's life support systems and include eight equipment racks, each the size of a kitchen refrigerator. The node will also house one of the space station's bathrooms and an observation portal that will serve as its robotic arm workstation.
Colbert has been pressing NASA to name Node 3 after him after winning the space station's recent online poll to choose its new moniker.
He urged fans to vote for his name as a write-in candidate and ended up with more than 230,000 votes, outdistancing the top NASA-chosen candidate "Serenity" by 40,000 ballots. Even members of Congress rallied to his cause. The online poll closed on March 20.
Yembrick said that such an outpouring of support from Colbert's fans made unveiling Node 3's name on the comedian's cable television show a natural choice.
"His audience took an interest ...and we want to honor them for caring," Yembrick said. The agency initially planned to unveil the name on April 28, when the module was due to arrive at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But the delivery has been delayed to May, so NASA opted to move the announcement up, agency officials said.
NASA's rules for the poll clearly state that the voting results would not be binding, but some sources have suggested that the outpouring of support by Colbert's fans may prompt the agency to name Node 3's space toilet in honor of the comedian.
"The node naming poll was organic and took on a life of its own," said NASA's space operations chief William Gerstenmaier, who was grilled by Colbert on Node 3's name when the official appeared on the show last month. "We received more than a million entries, in large part because social media Web sites and television programs, such as 'The Colbert Report,' took an interest. This spread overall awareness of the ... space station."