Colbert Loses Throne, Gains Treadmill

After weeks of controversy NASA last night told Steven Colbert it wouldn't be naming its new space module after him, but did say it would identify a treadmill after the Comedy Central comedian.

"We don't typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations. "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 what will now be known as Tranquility after the node arrives at the station next year. A newly-created patch will depict the acronym and an illustration of the treadmill.

The name Tranquility was chosen from thousands of suggestions submitted by participants on NASA's Web site, www.nasa.gov. The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four options listed by NASA or offering their own suggestion. Tranquility was one of the top ten suggestions submitted by respondents to the poll, which ended March 20.

The contest to name the module began innocently enough this year as NASA offered to let the public a vote for the new International Space Station's new living quarters. But a stink soon arose after Colbert supporters cast 230,539 write-in votes to name the new module "The Colbert." The top NASA-suggested name, "Serenity," came in second, more than 40,000 votes behind.

NASA says its contest rules say it can pretty much disregard the vote and ultimately it did.

"If NASA rejects the popular winner of its contest, they'll be sending the wrong message: that space is just for humorless, undemocratic bureaucrats!" said Space Frontier Foundation co-Founder Rick Tumlinson in a release. "But it's not, and Americans do have a sense of humor. Even in space we do many of the same routine things there we do on Earth." "Who knows, maybe the name will stick. After all, it was supposedly Thomas Crapper who popularized and named the flushable toilet we use today here on Earth. Generations of space pioneers to come might have to excuse themselves to go to 'The Colbert!'"

The decision is unlikely to placate all. Colbert said that he was happy with the call and joked that at least he didn't get the toilet named after him.

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