April 15, 2009, 12:43 PM — Houston, we have an answer.
Comedian Stephen Colbert may not get a wing of the International Space Station named after him, but NASA didn't leave him lost in space either. The space agency announced Tuesday on The Colbert Report that a treadmill onboard the space station will be named after Colbert
The wing itself will be called "Tranquility" in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.
The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill now will be called the "Colbert." The treadmill is scheduled to be brought up to the space station on an August shuttle launch and then installed in the new wing once it's brought up and attached next year, according to NASA.
Astronaut Sunita L. Williams, who has served as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, said on Colbert's show on Comedy Central last night that the treadmill will carry a special patch with an cartoon image of Colbert running on on it.
"Everyday somebody will have to jump on the Colbert to work out," she said to cheers from the in-studio audience. "Somebody will say, 'I have to jump on Colbert'."
The route to the comedy show started when NASA launched an online poll to find a name for the new wing of the space station. The new wing, initially called Node 3, will house life support equipment, controls for the space station's robotic arm ... and the new treadmill. Node 3, however, wasn't a very catchy name, so NASA went looking for something better.
What the space agency didn't anticipate was that Colbert would call on on his fans, known as Colbert Nation, to go to NASA's web site to write in "Colbert" as the new name for Node 3. And Colbert Nation not only voted, they voted in droves.
The digital ballot-box-stuffing worked. The name "Colbert" got more than 230,000 votes - 40,000 more votes than "Serenity," the top-ranked NASA-suggested name.
NASA had been balking at naming the node after Colbert despite his fans' overwhelming write-in efforts. Space.com even reported that NASA insiders had tossed around the idea of naming the space station's new toilet "Colbert" as a way to get around it.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store who's having a space station node named after him," Colbert joked before Williams took to the stage to make the announcement. "Just think, some day in the distant future, a child will say, 'What's that, Mommy?' and she'll say, "That the Stephen Colbert space node."
But that wasn't to be.
Colbert, though, told Williams he was thrilled to have the treadmill named after him. "The treadmill is better than a node because the node is just the box for the treadmill," he joked.
Tranquility, according to NASA, was one of the top 10 suggestions that people submitted on the agency's Web site.
"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, in a statement. "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."
The Tranquility node is slated to be launched onboard space shuttle Endeavour in mission STS-130. It's set for launch in February of 2010.
Right now, the space station has four U.S. modules: the Destiny laboratory, the Quest airlock, the Unity node and the Harmony node.