Article written: 14 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


2nd UPDATE: Watch the video of astronaut Suni Williams on “The Colbert Report” below .

There will be a COLBERT on the International Space Station. Word has it that NASA, however, did not name Node 3 on the ISS after comedian Stephen Colbert, who won a NASA-sponsored naming contest for the next module that will be brought to the station. According to Robert Pearlman on CollectSPACE, NASA will announce on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” later tonight (Tuesday) that the module’s name will be “Tranquility” – in deference to Apollo 11’s landing site on the Moon (40th anniversary and all this year). But NASA did name a new treadmill after Colbert, kinda sorta. NASA created an acronym for the treadmill as the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. Of course, this isn’t actually official yet. Pearlman’s article was published two hours before the “Colbert Report” aired (even though NASA’s press release specificially stated the name would “not be publicly released until the program airs.” Hmmm… guess nothing is sacred.) We’ll post the video and official word when available. You can see an image of the current treadmill on the ISS below.

UPDATE: Yes, it is true. Node 3 is Tranquility and the treadmill is C.O.L.B.E.R.T. The “official” treadmill patch is above, and the video from “The Colbert Report” is below. Colbert took it well, and he’s excited about the treadmill. Excerpts from NASA’s press release are below, as well.

Astronaut Suni Williams on the ISS treadmill. Credit: NASA

Astronaut Suni Williams on the ISS treadmill. Credit: NASA

Here’s astronaut Suni Williams running on the current ISS treadmill. She ran a marathon in space on this treadmill.

Here’s info from NASA’s official press release on the new Node 3 name:

“The public did a fantastic job and surprised us with the quality and volume of the suggestions,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations. “Apollo 11 landed on the moon at the Sea of Tranquility 40 years ago this July. We selected ‘Tranquility’ because it ties it to exploration and the moon and symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station.”

“We don’t typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception,” Gerstenmaier joked. “However, NASA is naming its new space station treadmill the ‘Combined Operational
Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill,’ or COLBERT. We have invited Stephen to Florida for the launch of COLBERT and to Houston to try out a version of the treadmill that astronauts train on.”

The treadmill is targeted to launch to the station in August. It will be installed in Tranquility after the node arrives at the station next year, scheduled for February 2010.

31 Responses

  1. Emission Nebula says


  2. Flogger11 says

    above X2. NASA you are the worst.

  3. Huron says

    Lame are the people that get upset over the result of a naming contest. The astronauts don’t care what the damn thing will be called, why should you?

    Naming it Colbert would not have gotten NASA any more money nor would it have generated any long term interest in the ISS.

  4. Setnom says

    @ Huron:

    “Naming it Colbert would not have gotten NASA any more money nor would it have generated any long term interest in the ISS.”

    … But “Tranquility” does?

    I disagree. The dozens of thousands of people that voted on Colbert are proof against it. I’m portuguese, and even I saw the media coverage on this (yes, it’s gone international).

    It would be damn good publicity for NASA. Oh well… I guess democracy in space is still light-years away.

  5. Silenus says

    “The astronauts don’t care what the damn thing will be called, why should you?”

    If nobody really cares, what’s the reason for NOT naming it this way then?

  6. Rui Borges says

    Setnom, I’m Portuguese also and I totally disagree with you. Is this a circus? What if, instead of Colbert, Kim Jong Il decided to get all the North Koreans voting on his name for the node? Or Nel Monteiro? 😉 NASA left the rules of the contest quite clear and I believe that they got out of this situation quite well.

  7. I CALL BS ON NASA… why have a contest if you don’t accept the winner? LIARS! CHEATS!

  8. Chuck Anziulewicz says

    I love The Colbert Report and watch it pretty religiously. I also am a longtime supporter of NASA, so as much as I love Stephen Colbert’s show (I get more laughs from it than just about anything else on TV these days), I think he took this a bit too far. I would have been a lot happier if he had just decided to graciously let it drop. He and his writers could have scripted around it and made his concession funny. This whole thing just got a bit too silly for my taste.

    As for NASA, let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson about opening up opportunities for the public to name ANYTHING. They need to set some more realistic guidelines.

  9. Carriep says

    Glad that NASA reserved the right to choose the final winner and all, but them not choosing the win, place, or show of the voting contest really kind of gives the metaphorical finger to all who voted.

    Ah well. Made for good TV.

  10. SoulJay says

    Lets make a portuguese ISS / Universe Today Party! (Lisbon here)

  11. Rob says

    I think NASA handled this well. now everyone is (should be) happy. For those who still want to complain either way, loosen up.

  12. Jorge says

    LOL! Great lough!

    Great for Colbert: he can now be stumped on, in space, which is the lifelong wish of any great comedian. And great for NASA, who came up with a great and humorous way to make the final punch line to this whole joke. Too bad there are so many people without a sense of humour our there. Sigh. Disparaging to notice that some of those are self-proclaimed Colbert fans. I think they can’t be real Colbert fans if they don’t get his jokes, but that’s just me.

    And, yeah, go Portugal. Portimão here. 🙂

  13. RickE says

    i have officially lost all faith in those dolts at NASA

    i thought stuffing ballot boxes was illegal.
    which is what happened here when a tv host
    insisted his zombie fans vote in droves
    for something they didn’t care about.

    really sad.

  14. JimE says

    i have officially lost all faith in those dolts at NASA

    i thought stuffing ballot boxes was illegal.
    which is what happened here when a tv host
    insisted his zombie fans vote in droves
    for something they didn’t care about.

    really sad.

  15. Jon Hanford says

    I am having trouble again trying to access posts to articles here at UT AGAIN! Could someone affiliated with this site either fix this or return to a single (sometimes long) page format with all responses on the same page. It’s frustrating not being able to read and reply to earlier responses to the articles.

  16. Jon-
    We are looking into it.

  17. Rui Borges says

    Oh the portuguese clan…if only we had met before…we would be celebrating now Zézé Camarinha’s arrival to LEO… 😉

  18. Member

    I think it’s great how it turned out. Colbert got to abuse an open voting system, and got a treadmill named after him.

    If I ever launch a spacecraft, I’m going to be calling it Colbert from day 1. Just to get that part over with.

  19. SteveF says

    @Fraser, I concur. Colbert got free press, NASA got free press! winwin!!! Any chance to get more NASA on tv floats my boat (I don’t get the NASA chan anymore)

  20. RL says

    I think they should have called it Universe Today…

  21. Yan Luz says

    Wag of the finger to NASA. I voted for what? So NASA can go and not honor the votes?

  22. Emission Nebula says

    Stephen Colbert knew he wasn’t going to get it named after him. Give him more credit people.

    HOWEVER, NASA created the rules, then broke them. He had every right to try, anyone would have.

    Admittedly, I would be happy with having treadmill in orbit around the Earth named after me.

  23. Jorge says

    Emission, you know the meaning of the expression “non-binding”?

    NASA broke no rule. The name poll was non-binding from the start. They’d go for a winning name if they liked it, but would choose another one if the winning name didn’t appeal to them. Those were the rules. It’s the whiners who are trying to bend them when they demand NASA to do otherwise.

  24. Emission Nebula says


    Fair enough.

  25. Jason says

    I personally think NASA missed a huge chance here. Why did they make the contest? To gain public interest. What happened when they gained public interest? Freaked out and made themselves look like the humorless bureaucrats that take themselves too seriously that most the public thinks they are.

    Way to look the gift horse in the mouth NASA.

  26. matt says

    What was going on with the CC? did you see what it wrote when he said “zombie dragon onslaught”?

  27. Kt D says

    Hopefully, everyone was able to take this in good humor. It’s slightly disappointing that COLBERT won’t be the station soaring around in space, but at least NASA titled the treadmill after him. And it will be fun to watch him try the thing out. True, NASA did make this contest, and maybe they should have let the public know earlier that live beings’ names were not allowed. Still, they gained a lot of public attention because of this. And Colbert, although understandably disappointed, took the news in great stride. I watched a good video on all of this at earlier today. It’s worth looking at:

  28. DZ says

    i just dont get why you would have a contest on what to name the node if your just going to pick the name in the end. just saying

  29. hale_bopp says

    I love the acronym…after all, NASA is the National Association of Silly Acroynms!

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