NASA recently held a contest to decide the name for a new nodule that will be added to the space station. The site offered four options to choose from: Earthrise, Legacy, Serenity, and Venture. Participants could also write in their own name choice.
On March 3, comedian Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, requested for his viewers to write in “Colbert” as their entry for the contest. The results were completely unexpected and showed the power that popular media has in society. Colbert won the contest, with 230,539 votes of the 1.2 million casted. The closest contender was “Serenity,” falling about 40,000 short of “Colbert.”
Although the American public has spoken, the bylines of the contest state that although public opinion will be taken into regard, NASA will ultimately choose the nodule’s name. Rumors have surfaced that NASA will name one of the space toilets added to the station after Colbert instead.
Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah, of Pennsylvania, got involved with the debate last week. A written statement from Fattah declared that, “The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square – even if his campaign was a bit over the top.”
Comedy Central’s website jeered the need for this Congressional intervention.
This is Colbert’s third heavily-publicized campaign to have his name appear in unusual places. He urged his fans, referred to as the “Colbert Nation,” to vote his name for a contest to decide the name of a Hungarian bridge. He won that contest also, but Hungarian officials would not allow the bridge to be named after him. He also requested that his viewers to put his name on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots in South Carolina, where he is from.
He was unsuccessful in that campaign.
The space nodule will not receive its official name until later this month, and it will not be launched until February 2010. Colbert’s proponents urge NASA to honor their word. What started as a simple contest has become an exercise democratic participation.
As Fattah stated, regarding NASA’s compliance, “We insist on democracy in orbit.”