Deciding against the popular vote, NASA has made up its mind and gone in a completely different direction (who would have guessed?). The new addition to the International Space Station, will be named “Tranquility” (in honour of the 40th anniversary of the first manned base on the Moon this July), ignoring the clear winner in the “please help us name Node 3” competition. Obviously concerned about the role Stephen Colbert’s celebrity status had securing so many votes, the space agency looked as if they might go for one of the official suggestions, the second place “Serenity”.
This didn’t happen either.
They decided to go with a more suitable public suggestion, about half-way down the top ten chart. Tranquility will join similar nodes called Unity and Harmony, sounding more and more like the components of a Japanese Zen garden every day.
But there is a consolation prize for the award-winning presenter and comedian, the new running machine will be called the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (or COLBERT), proving once again that a lot of effort goes into NASA’s acronyms…
Oh what havoc faux-conservative pundit Stephen Colbert wrought on NASA and the ISS! To think that a little publicity stunt would actually put the U.S. space agency in a jam and incite grudging grumbles from Firefly fans who were sure that Node 3 would be called Serenity. Even a few Congressmen who found time away from dealing with a painful and deep recession that’s put the entire economy in turmoil, are now involved in sorting out this little mess.
But there’s actually an interesting question in this seeming non-story. Should NASA embrace the will of the masses and give nods to pop culture in how it officially names its spacecraft? There are stories of informal call signs for capsules and modules taken from the Peanuts comic strip, but there’s never been an official designation that reflects what’s popular here on Earth at the time of the mission. What would benefit NASA more? Giving in to the power of the fad or staying resolute with timeless names?
There’s a mini-storm brewing over the popular choice of the winning nomination for the name of the new segment of the International Space Station (ISS). The problem arose when NASA decided to invite nominations for names of the new addition; NASA had four “official” suggestions (including the popular “Serenity” option after the legendary spaceship from the TV show Firefly), but “Colbert” from the popular TV show, “The Colbert Report”, won with a vote count of over 230,000. This beat off “Serenity” by 40,000 votes, a convincing lead in my books.
All in all, I’d make this simple. NASA invited nominations and allowed the public to vote on it, so name Node 3 after a popular comedian and not a popular space ship. However, this may invite criticism that a celebrity can actively drum up support (perhaps unfairly) via a large audience. But is this enough to make the Colbert result null and void? Although NASA reserves the right to override the result, the agency should have removed Colbert from the voting before the process ended if it was indeed deemed unfair.
Personally, I would love to see Node 3 be named Serenity (as this Astroengineer is a serious Firefly nut), and “serene” is what this node will be as the ESA Copola will be attached, giving station astronauts an incredible viewing experience of the Earth and space, I can think of no better, peaceful viewing platform. To say “I’m entering Serenity,” sounds far better (and more decent) than “I’m entering Colbert,” but NASA may have to be fair on this. They invited public participation, and to defend the agency’s public image and guise of fairness (regardless of competition clauses), technically “Colbert” should be chosen. But I would be overjoyed if Node 3 was named Serenity, be damned with democratic fairness!
In any case, all the finalists were pretty cool, although I have no idea how Xenu made it into the top ten… there are a lot of Scientologists out there it seems, now that is where the real debate should be focused!