ISS Node 3:  Will it be Colbert?
ISS Node 3: Will it be Colbert?

Space Station

Colbert Wins ISS Naming Contest

23 Mar , 2009 by

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NASA obviously underestimated the awesome power of the Colbert. In an online contest to name a new module for the International Space Station, NASA suggested a few names, but then provided the possibility for write-in suggestions. Comedian Stephen Colbert won in a landslide, beating out NASA’s obvious top suggestion, Serenity by over 40,000 votes. But NASA has not said if they will heed the public’s wishes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast when the voting ended last Friday. Colbert has been in the lead for some time, and a few weeks ago NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier joined Colbert on his Comedy Central show to address the possibility of actually naming the module. “Will you now commit to naming that module Colbert if I win your online vote?” Colbert asked Gerstenmaier.

“Well, we’re going to have to go think about that as we get all the votes and we see where we are,” Gerstenmaier responded. See the video below:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Space Module: Colbert – William Gerstenmaier
comedycentral.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

NASA said it reserves the right to choose an appropriate name. Agency spokesman John Yembrick said NASA will decide in April, but will give top vote-getters “the most consideration.”

Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report” to write in his name. Colbert received 230,539 votes.

He said “Serenity” is not a name for a space station module, but for an air freshener.

Serenity took 70% of votes for NASA’s suggested names, with Legacy, Earthrise and Venture getting just a small percentage of the votes. NASA has said contests like this one are a way to get the public involved with space exploration.

Anyone want to place bets on what the module’s name will actually be?

For more information about the Node 3 module, read our original post about the naming contest.

Source: MSNBC, NASA

By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.


46 Responses

  1. Emission Nebula says:

    I voted for Colbert.

  2. Aqua says:

    I guess next we’ll have to send him up to the ISS for an in depth interview and report on what the astronauts actually think about all the controversy? Yes… he can take his eagle.

  3. KaiYves says:

    I voted for “Venture”. Can I still call it that, no matter what name they pick?

  4. Aqua says:

    … or maybe a phone call will do?

  5. Layman says:

    Comedian Stephen Colbert ?
    I guess that I am a nerd- I have never even heard of him- He is never on the Science Channel is he?
    Lets name something for Carl Sagan or
    how about William Shatner- or the
    James T Kirk module-

  6. marcellus says:

    Naming the module Colbert would be more evidence of the decline of western civilization.

  7. tacitus says:

    NASA isn’t going to select Colbert. They have an easy get-out in that The Colbert Report is part of Comedy Central which is an ongoing commercial enterprise, and naming the module after the star of the show would be seen as free advertising (even more than the free publicity he’s already received). As much as I like the show, I don’t agree that my tax dollars should be used in this way.

    Mark my words, Serenity will get the nod.

  8. Jorge says:

    Layman, Colbert himself is a nerd. 😉

    Anyhoo, I’d go for naming a module Colbert, but only if NASA named another one Stewart. Besides, that’d piss off the iranians: Stewart is also from Jew-piter, I hear. 😀

  9. Max says:

    The firefly fans voted for Serenity… and I suspect they have guns.

    This could get ugly >_>;

  10. MarsMan says:

    Who is Colbert? ;o) Can anyone imagine Captain Kirk meeting aliens in a ship named Colbert? Much less a space station module. I’ll side with NASA on this one.

  11. R2K says:

    Should have been Serenity.

  12. Layman says:

    Does anyone know if this module has a particular purpose- science- medical- galley-gym- holo-deck….?

    Lets vote again- The Sagan Observatory

  13. Silver Thread says:

    Rubbish. If this crap is just a retarded Popularity Contest it’s going to wind up being some retarded crap like “The Hannah Montana Module”. It has to be Serentiy, gorram it.

  14. Internyet says:

    Serenity now…Colbert later.

  15. Yan Luz says:

    I voted for Colbert.

    But I think NASA will come up with some lame excuse not to use that.

  16. Ken says:

    The first space shuttle was named Enterprise, from the Star Trek TV show … How’s that for naming something after a ‘commercial enterprise’ huh tacitus?

    I voted Colbert

  17. tacitus says:

    Yes, Ken, I know about Enterprise. There’s a big difference though. There were already eight US Navy ships by the same name before Star Trek ever took to the airwaves, so while the vote to name the first space shuttle Enterprise was obviously swayed by sentimental reasons, there were also excellent historical reasons for giving it that name (not to mention the appropriateness of the term itself). I also don’t remember any employee of Paramount launching an active campaign to get that name selected!

    I thought it was great fun for Colbert to throw his lot into the competition and NASA only benefits from the extra publicity it’s given them but, as I said, there is no way NASA is going to allow that module to be called Colbert. I suspect they will find a place in the module to stick a plaque with Stephen Colbert’s name on it but they will call module Serenity. (After all, Unity and Harmony are the other names, so it fits right in.)

    Just having a plaque with Colbert’s name on it arriving at the ISS will probably ensure several more show’s worth of publicity for NASA.

  18. Wolter says:

    Does Colbert in anyway “reflect the spirit of exploration and cooperation embodied by the space station, and follow in the tradition set by Node 1- Unity- and Node 2- Harmony.”
    I don’t think so….

  19. Luke Garratt says:

    Looks more like a gun-mount from the Millenium Falcon to me…

  20. Brad says:

    I voted for Norris. Because if we named it after Chuck you’d never need to move it out of the way of space junk again.

  21. jkw says:

    NASA is a public entity; funded, in the main, by public funds. I am a member of the public. I don’t like or dislike Colbert. But I know that, among others, he appeals to smarmy, snide mouthoffs who find self validation in his commentary and I certainly do not want a publicly funded project validating that kind of nonsense. There would have been more votes for “Rush” or “Limbaugh” if he had thought of having the smarmy, snide mouthoffs who find validation in his commentary vote for him. NASA has to think about the precedents.

  22. Mr.Obvious says:

    Nothing wrong with Colbert.

    He managed to bring more attention to the program than NASA did. That itself is saying something. He hasn’t done anything to demean the program or hurt NASA in any way.
    To be fair… he won. Like it or not.

  23. Calvin says:

    I think it would be well-humored and funny (same thing?) for NASA to name it Colbert. 😀

  24. Ayan says:

    This is an ‘International Space Station. How inappropriate is that, when a self-centered completely ego-centric choice of a name is seriously considered as the number one possibility.

    It appears to me, in most space namings a member of the community is often honoured based on their merit and contribution over time or the object is named from their personal preference, as a recognition.

    Colbert?! Please. Serenity was excellent, so is Harmony.
    Keep it ‘international’ and symbolic of the unity of the global community.

  25. Scamp says:

    “Serenity”? Are you kidding me?

    Only NASA could make space boring.

    The people have spoken.
    The people are paying for the module
    The people are paying all your salaries NASA

    Lighten up, learn to live a little and most of all listen to the people NASA.
    You should listen.

  26. huygens says:

    NASA will once again ignore the will of the public who pays for them via their taxes and go with their original name chioce.

    And of course NASA will continue to wonder why Joe Sixpack doesn’t care about them or space.

  27. Bonan Quao says:

    Hrumpf! Hrumpf! Hrumpf!

    Scamp and Huygens for President!

    Colbert won fair and square through popular vote!

    Oh wait….popular vote means nothing in the US of A. Sorry, my bad…

  28. Mr.Obvious says:

    If naming the module ‘Colbert’ brings added attention and interest to the program, then it is a good thing.
    Naming it anything else now, after the contest was won in a fair manner, will only segregate those thousands who supported it, and perpetuate the feeling that the government will go back on its word, and doesn’t care about every day civilians.

    NASA doesn’t need to impress those who are already space geeks. They already have them… for better or worse.
    They need to do what they can to improve their image and create a connection with those who have never even been to NASA’s web site. Especially when they will be fighting for money within an Obama budget which prides social programs over scientific exploration.

  29. Peter says:

    Did you notice the new phrase added to the announcement of the naming contest for NASA’s Mars Science Lab:

    “The non-binding poll to help NASA select a name will accept votes through March 29, 2009. ”

    “non-binding”, huh? I guess the Colbert Nation taught NASA a lesson…

  30. tacitus says:


    Naming it anything else now, after the contest was won in a fair manner, will only segregate those thousands who supported it, and perpetuate the feeling that the government will go back on its word, and doesn’t care about every day civilians.

    You’re invoking segregation? Really?? Please, spare us from your ridiculously high dudgeon.

    The Colbert campaign was a prank, a joke — quite literally. The Colbert team thought it would be a funny thing to do (and they were right) as well as bringing more attention (and advertising dollars) to the show. The NASA get-out clause was in the rules of the contest precisely for this type of hijacking of the poll.

    Nobody in their right mind believes that NASA is required to abide by this comedic gerrymandering of an online poll just because of the risk that American voters might lose their faith in their government. Just how stupid do you think people are?

  31. omnivorr says:

    tsk tsk… another opportunity for Humanity co-opted by crass credulity….

    “forty-thousand years inventing the wheel, and still haven’t agreed what colour it should be…”

    ..let’s call it “the B-Ark”

  32. tacitus says:

    Peter, the poll was non-binding from the beginning.

  33. omnivorr says:

    …. I bet “humility” never got a look-in between 185-60 long’ W, & 30-75 lat’ N,….

    …”Vanity” might be more US-media appropriate? ..”vacuous ephemera for the attention-deficit” is too self-defeating…

    mebe NASA could spend less on PR & Marketing, more on science and engineering, and just call it the view-deck….

    ?

  34. Zibit says:

    I remember back in 1997 I think it was and Ric Flair won the “write-in” Man of the Year for TIME Magazine by a landslide.

    Needless to say, he was NOT selected as man of the year.

    However,
    I think they should name it Colbert and hopefully more people will make a big deal about naming some of these machines. Maybe it will bring some NEEDED attention to Space!

  35. watchful stone guardian says:

    If “Colbert” wins out then the Canadian Space Agency should consider renaming the DEXTRE robot “Mercer” to keep with the comedian theme.

  36. Aqua says:

    I like the idea that Colbert attracts a very hip an savvy crowd. These folks actually KNOW that we are building an International Space Station! and may even know where to look for it when it passes over…

  37. Aqua says:

    Humor like music opens our minds.

  38. irishjazz says:

    The fact that a name from a canceled, one-season science fiction show was able to come within 40,000 votes of a very popular comedian on TV every night is quite an accomplishment.

    Scamp, based on your comment, you should give yourself a treat and check out “Firefly”- the Joss Wheadon show from which the name derives. Not so boring.

  39. Ron Mexico says:

    Someone compare the number of comments on this article to the number of comments on articles concerning substantive aspects of NASA’s space strategy and tell me it isn’t an example of Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, a.k.a the bikeshed painting problem.

    I think Serenity is an utterly vacuous name. What serenity is it named for? I can’t imagine a bustling space station being very serene, unless of course it’s abandoned or everyone aboard dies. Maybe that’s why they want to name it Serenity? In anticipation of all their astronauts getting owned by a piece of space junk?

    Colbert may be equally vacuous, but at least it has the redeeming virtue of being humorous. Simply thinking module 1: Unity, module 2: Harmony, module 3,: Colbert makes me giggle. That’s why NASA won’t do it. Fun is illegal, you know.

  40. Aspaceyguy says:

    watchful stone guardian SAID:
    If “Colbert” wins out then the Canadian Space Agency should consider renaming the DEXTRE robot “Mercer” to keep with the comedian theme.

    HA HA HA, that’s excellent!! For sure…I vote for renaming to “Mercer” (as in Rick Mercer).

    Seriously though, on has to consider, what is the functionality of the new module.
    Perhaps name it appropriately to tie in with that. I didn’t think of Serenity from the sci fi show, but the meaning itself seems to suit the use.
    BTW: It is NOT the American Space Station…keep that well in mind.

    Ok here is a stray name for the module, after the fact: –MAYA–
    Off the cuff it has many valuable meanings, but I thought it also gives a nod to the key breakout character from the tv series Space1999.

  41. Emission Nebula says:

    It’s just a module. Save Carl Sagans name for something big, like a new exploring rover on another world.

  42. Nic says:

    Big whoop, Colbert won. It’s not like they’re naming the entire space station, or the LEM. It’s just one out of a dozen modules in a space station. Why wouldn’t you chose Colbert? If the people want it and it brings publicity- great!

  43. Derek W says:

    Seriously, NASA should just be happy that many people even gave a damn, considering how boring and uninspiring they make science and space in general appear.

    Not naming the module Colbert would be a step in the WRONG direction for NASA, yet again.

  44. Mike says:

    Colbert and Stewart are self-proclaimed FAKE NEWS. Colbert is clearly FAKE CONTEST WINNER.

  45. SeaFire says:

    NASA suggested Serenity, and people want it.

    Serenity will be the name choosen. Why? Well because I said so and because other names are a joke.

  46. Jesse says:

    Colbert should have a room named for him on the ISS – the toilet.

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