– Astronauts aboard the International Space Station say they would welcome the arrival of the outpost's new orbital room, even if it is named after comedian Stephen Colbert.
NASA astronaut Michael Barratt currently living aboard the space station said he is confident the right name will be chosen for the outpost's new Node 3, which is slated to be delivered early next year.
"I'm sure that the right people will make the right decision," Barratt told reporters via a video link last week. "We'll be happy to live in the node whatever it's called."
The node name game
Colbert, a comedian and host of Comedy Central's faux-conservative show "The Colbert Report," urged his fans to write in his name during NASA's recent online poll to name Node 3. When voting ended in late March, Colbert's name had amassed more than 230,000 votes, far outdistancing NASA's to suggestion "Serenity" by 40,000 votes.
NASA's poll rules clearly state the agency has the final word on Node 3's name.
"NASA will take into consideration the results of the voting. However, the results are not binding on NASA and NASA reserves the right to ultimately select a name in accordance with the best interests of the agency, its needs, and other considerations," the rules state. "Such name may not necessarily be one which is on the list of voted-on candidate names. NASA's decision shall be deemed final."
Still, Colbert has continued to campaign for his name. He called on NASA to maintain "democracy in orbit" during a recent episode of his show and renewed his bid on Monday night.
"NASA, don't make me strap a rocket to an intern and launch him into space with a can of spray paint," Colbert said during Monday's episode of his show.
Some sources have suggested NASA might meet Colbert's fans halfway and name Node 3's toilet after the comedian. NASA is expected to reveal the final name soon, agency officials have said.
Barratt said he missed much of the excitement surrounding Node 3's naming poll because he spent the last few months in Russia training for his March 26 launch to the station. It was only after he arrived at the outpost, that the station's crew filled him in.
"This fight has just begun," Colbert said, adding that he has received some support from members of Congress. "Congress, stay on this! If you don't, I will fight it every step of the way, from the Supreme Court to the Space Court."
Node 3's delivery crew
Barratt is not the only one eager to see Node 3 delivered regardless of its name. NASA astronaut Kay Hire is on the space shuttle crew that will deliver Node 3 in February 2010.
"What the final name is going to be, I have no idea, but I am more than happy to help deliver that node no matter what it's named," Hire told SPACE.com last month.
Hire and her crewmates will deliver Node 3 and its attached observation portal, known as the Cupola, when their shuttle arrives at the space station in February 2010. Node 3 is a cylindrical room that will be attached to the bottom of the space station, where it will be filled with a bathroom and eight refrigerator-sized racks of equipment that includes much of the station's life support gear.
Hire said NASA's voting poll may have received an unexpected response thanks to Colbert's fans, but the result is very positive.
"I think it's actually really interesting," she said. "We think it's kind of cool in that, if nothing else, it's just bringing in a new group of people that maybe didn't pay attention to NASA or the International Space Station or the space shuttle before."
She added that she planned to cast her own vote before the polls closed, but was excited to see Node 3, and by extension NASA, shine in the public spotlight.
"Anything that allows the public to take a look at what we're doing here at NASA, I think that's a good thing," Hire said.
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