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NASA Names Space Station Treadmill After Colbert 383

willith writes "The SF Chronicle reports on the results of the International Space Station Node 3 naming contest (which we previously discussed). Comedian and fake-pundit Stephen Colbert conducted a bombastic write-in campaign and repeatedly urged his show's fan base (the 'Colbert Nation') to stuff the ballot box with his name, which resulted in 'Colbert' coming in first in the write-in contest with almost a quarter-million votes. Although the Node 3 component will not be named 'Colbert' — NASA has instead chosen to call it 'Tranquility' — one of the Node 3 components will bear the honor: the second ISS treadmill, which will be installed in Node 3, will be named the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. The formal announcement was made on the air yesterday at 22:30 EDT on the Colbert Report by astronaut Sunita Williams."
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NASA Names Space Station Treadmill After Colbert

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  • by patmandu ( 247443 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:00AM (#27584861)

    Maybe we could get the toilets named RIAA or something?

  • Tranquility? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:00AM (#27584863) Journal
    I thought serenity was the runner up?
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      We need to change copyright laws...
    • Re:Tranquility? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:19AM (#27585059) Homepage

      That was my reaction when I saw the show last night, too.

      They not only decided to ignore the write-in winner, but also to ignore the winner amongst the 'finalist' names that NASA had selected.

      Based on numbers reported from MSNBC []:

      • Colbert : 'more than 230,000'
      • Serenity: about 190,000 (lost 'by more than 40,000 votes')
      • Myyearbook: 147,637
      • Gaia: 114,427

      From that, we know that Tranquility is under 114,427 ... but we also know [] the relative percentages of the 4 that NASA proposed (which gives us: Earthrise : 24k; Legacy : 35k; Venture: 21k), the total number of votes, and that there were another 4 above Tranquility in the rankings ... even if there was a multi-way tie between Xenu/Socialvibe/Buddy/Ubuntu and Tranquility, and Synergy and Vision got negligible results ... Tranquility couldn't have gotten more than 86k votes.

    • Re:Tranquility? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:20AM (#27585083)

      Maybe they figured out that everyone immediately jumped to Firefly when they heard Serenity, and they didn't want that association. On the other hand, I question the wisdom of giving it a name that already is hugely significant in the annals of space travel, since it was also the name of the Apollo 11 moon landing site, but what are you gonna do. Every name has some issue with it.

      I would have liked them to name the commode after Colbert instead, but this is a pretty clever compromise on its own, and its in keeping with the government's practice of creating cumbersome acronyms for ordinary objects, so I guess it works.

  • by Anonymusing ( 1450747 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:01AM (#27584871)

    How long did it take them to come up with the acronym "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill"?

  • Ignored (Score:2, Interesting)

    Basically they chose to ignore the poll. The name they chose, "Tranquility", was like in 8th place.
    • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:11AM (#27584955) Journal

      Among all the choices that weren't being driven by bots or ballot stuffers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        If you don't want people to vote often, perhaps you should produce a ballot box that doesn't permit stuffing. It's not rocket science, there's numerous implementations freely available, and whining about the will of the public doesn't change that. If NASA has proven that certain entries came from certain specific individuals and thus they have condensed their entries, let them announce as much. Otherwise they're just making themselves liars.

      • by eln ( 21727 )

        Seems like NASA learned a valuable lesson about the utter foolishness of using Internet polls to make any kind of even vaguely significant decision. I see nothing wrong with the direction they went, except for the fact that they decided to try and poll the Internet in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Basically they chose to ignore the poll.

      Which is something they reserved the right to do. Or did you not read the fine print?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Basically they chose to ignore the poll. The name they chose, "Tranquility", was like in 8th place.

      Easy solution: Next time I see a story of NASA putting something to a vote, I'll ignore it. Won't read, won't vote, won't care as it's not real as they'll ignore both the poll and the write-ins. Slashdot editors and everyone else feel free to do the same. I think this whole thing was very unserious and unprofessional and think less of NASA for it. Great anti-PR campaign, and all PR is definately not good PR for them.

  • I thought the legit winner was Serenity.

  • Nice to see NASA has a sense of humour. Or would that be humor for you folks south of the border?

  • Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:07AM (#27584933)
    While I think it's cool that his name is appearing in the space station, I think it's idiotic for them to not name the node Colbert. They had a public vote for the name. They allowed write in suggestions. The write in suggestion won because a TV personality made sure to make it a big deal. Name the node Colbert and, maybe, that TV personality will keep NASA in people's minds. If people are thinking about NASA a lot, it will be easier for NASA to do business (get funding, recruit minds, etc., etc., etc.). It's just stupid for them to not name it what the people voted for. What does it cost them? Oh noes! The name of the node isn't something "proper" like Tranquility! Whatever. Such a stupid decision.
    • Agreed across the board. However, NASA is operated by bureaucracy, what did you expect? Government to do the will of the people? Snicker snort.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Funny)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:17AM (#27585029)
      NASA represents America, son, not democracy!
    • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:21AM (#27585087)

      But they never claimed that they would name the node after the #1 choice - they said they'd do a poll, and then decide themselves. Not totally ignoring the poll, obviously, but also not feeling bound by it no matter what, either.

      And as I always say: all is fair if you predeclare. They didn't lie about it, so what's the problem?

      Let me guess: you voted for "Colbert" (or possibly "Serenity" - or possibly both, multiple times), and you either didn't read the rules beforehand or somehow convinced yourself that they would go with the popular choice no matter what after all. But that's not NASA's problem, it's your problem.

      What NASA did was entirely fair.

      • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PriceIke ( 751512 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @10:02AM (#27585597)

        Exactly what is the POINT of running a poll then, if they are going to pay no mind whatsoever to the results? I agree the "Colbert" voters were being tools, but the other entries on the list were perfectly acceptable and the winner of the poll, Serenity, is a perfectly appropriate name. It is also consistent with the NASA convention of naming things after particularly popular and inspirational science fiction vessels, as was the test shuttle Enterprise named for the starship Enterprise thanks to a massive write-in campaign by Trek fans. Naming the module Serenity would have shown that NASA still honors science fiction storytellers in the modern age, without whom the largest portion of interest in space and technology wouldn't be there.

        Besides .. 'tranquility' IS SYNONYMOUS WITH 'serenity'. Same exact concept, but NASA wanted to use their own word, not the people's. This is NASA giving the middle finger to Serenity fans, no other way to interpret it. Dumb, dumb, stupid, idiot move, NASA. Way to be pricks for no good reason.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @10:16AM (#27585775) Homepage
      Yeah really stupid. Now they'll only get publicity when Colbert visits NASA, the first time its launched, the first time he interviews someone on it, etc. And they do it without pissing off international partners (it may be our node, but it ain't our space station).
  • by rarel ( 697734 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:14AM (#27584997) Homepage
    So, fellow browncoats, we were on the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one though ;)
  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:15AM (#27585005)

    To be fair, they DID say from the beginning that they reserved the right to pick a name themselves regardless of the poll's outcome.

    I suspect that Colbert himself played a big role in this decision. He isn't going to drop out of character to say so, but Colbert-the-pundit is a character, and I imagine Colbert-the-person wasn't entirely comfortable saddling an "important" component of the space program (all ISS contempt aside) with the name of a comedy character. Their final decision still gave his character plenty of mileage -- "the treadmill is the really important part, the 'module' is just a box that the treadmill comes in" -- while preserving a bit of what many would perceive as decorum.

  • by RobBebop ( 947356 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:17AM (#27585027) Homepage Journal

    one of the Node 3 components will bear the honor: the second ISS treadmill, which will be installed in Node 3, will be named the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill.

    You better watch your back Article Summary writer. Colbert doesn't take kindly to your type of folk who honor bears.

  • explanation here (Score:5, Informative)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:27AM (#27585159)
    On the contest page, [] NASA has an explanation of why they chose the name 'Tranquility', as well as a little write-up of the COLBERT thing.
  • This could have been a real PR coup for NASA but they screwed up.
  • Nice to know the front lines of human-kind showed at least a little democracy.....
  • by sabre86 ( 730704 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @10:15AM (#27585755)
    1) According to the site [], 1190437 people submitted votes or named selections. "Colbert" got 230539 [] and "Serenity" got about 190k. Even combined, the top two choices only got about 35 percent of the vote. Alone, "Colbert" got about 19% of the vote. Even if the poll results were not biased by ballot stuffing, all they make clear is that no matter what choice NASA made, 80 percent of the voters disagreed with it. In no reasonable sense did "Colbert" win an election -- if a candidate was voted into office with a plurality of only 19% of the vote, there would be calls for his head and the system would probably be reformed.

    2)Can we please stop conflating whoever put this survey on with the entirety of NASA? Some small group of people within the organization are responsible for the survey and the name selection. Complain about Bill Gerstenmaier, as it appears that he bears some responsibility for the survey and the naming, or maybe the ISS Project Office.

    3)The rules [] did make it clear that the contest "winner" wouldn't necessarily be picked for the module name. It even gives reasons why: "NASA reserves the right to ultimately select a name in accordance with the best interests of the agency, its needs, and other considerations. Such name may not necessarily be one which is on the list of voted-on candidate names." The ISS is a big international project, and it's possible that the naming of a module might have a diplomatic effect. Relations with the Russians, our major partners on the station, seem somewhat stressed, maybe even on station []. So not selecting what may be viewed as the flippant choice for a module name seems the more diplomatically sound choice.

  • by Peet42 ( 904274 ) <Peet42@Netscap e . net> on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @10:16AM (#27585769)

    "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill"

    The "Treadmill" is silent.

  • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @11:35AM (#27586761)

    treadmill they will be walking all over Colbert?

    Hilarious! I'll wager he gets a kick out of it, too.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur