Group urges NASA to flush the Colbert space toilet or get off the pot

From Comedy Central: S. Colbert

The Space Frontier Foundation advocacy group today urged NASA to respect the results of a nationwide contest to name a new space toilet for International Space Station (ISS).

The Foundation proposed using either the first or second place winners of the contest: "The Colbert" (for the popular Comedy Central comedian Steve Colbert or "Serenity" (for the popular Firefly sci-fi television pilot and film) as the official name for the super toilet, whose purpose is to re-cycle human waste products and is the first of its kind to be flown in space.

"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 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 contest to name the toilet 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 has suggested it will go with Serenity, though no official ruling has been issued.  Hence the stink.

Tumlinson said multiple generations of space supporters have come to believe that NASA never says what it means, or means what it says. But here the agency has an opportunity to flush that image down the drain and reach a whole new generation of potential supporters.

Last week, U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat, called on NASA to obey the vote.

"NASA decided to hold an election to name its new room at the International Space Station and the clear winner is Stephen Colbert," Fattah said in a statement.  "The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square -- even if his campaign was a bit over the top."

MSNBC reported last week that the 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 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."

Meanwhile Space Frontier Chairman Berin Szoka offered a compromise: "If NASA wants to close the lid on 'The Colbert' as not serious enough a name for what is essentially an advanced toilet, they should go with the runner-up: 'Serenity." Just as President Ford responded to a write-in campaign to name the first Space Shuttle Enterprise, NASA could embrace what made Firefly, like Star Trek, so enduringly popular: the inspiring depiction of ordinary people living and working in space. Of course, we concede this name too may have something to do with the quiet and special moment of privacy one might need after a hard day of working on the space frontier and eating from a squeeze tube."

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