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SAGA 04-15-09 01:29 AM

Funnyman Colbert gets less lofty namesake
Funnyman Colbert gets less lofty namesake
Posted 59m ago

Stephen Colbert
AP file photo

By William M. Welch, USA TODAY


Television comedy show host Stephen Colbert was hoping a new wing at the International Space Station would bear his name, but he'll have to settle for an exercise machine.

NASA announced that the name of the new module is "Tranquility" during an appearance by astronaut Sunita Williams on Comedy Central's Colbert Report on Tuesday.

The space agency held an online contest to let the public vote for a name. Colbert had urged viewers to write in votes naming it for him, and the agency said Colbert beat out the agency's four suggested options: Serenity, Legacy, Earthrise and Venture.

Colbert received more than 230,000 votes out of 1 million, but NASA reserved the right to be the final arbiter.

While it wasn't the leading vote-getter, Tranquility was one of the top 10 suggestions submitted by respondents to the online poll, which ended March 20, NASA said in a statement. It was selected in part because of a connection to the 1969 first manned lunar landing.

"Apollo 11 landed on the moon at the Sea of Tranquility 40 years ago this July," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations. "We selected Tranquility because it ties it to the exploration and the moon, and symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station."

As a consolation prize to the comedian, Gerstenmaier said NASA is naming "its new space station treadmill the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT."

Why reject the public's choice, even if orchestrated by a TV funnyman? "We don't typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people, and this is no exception," Gerstenmaier said.

The treadmill is scheduled to be sent to the station in August and will be installed in Tranquility after the node arrives at the station next year. NASA unveiled on Colbert's show a new patch with the acronym and treadmill.

Tranquility will join four other named U.S. modules: the Destiny laboratory, the Quest airlock, the Unity node and the Harmony node.

"You know, actually, I think the treadmill is better than the node," Colbert said on the show. "Because the node is just the box for the treadmill."

"Exactly," Williams said.

"And however far the space station goes, my treadmill will always have gone a few miles more," Colbert said.

Funnyman Colbert gets less lofty namesake - USATODAY.com

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