Agent Assassin brings to our attention a recent NASA poll to name a nodule (what you ground dwellers would call a room) on the International Space Station. The existing nodules are named Unity and Harmony, and the 4 choices were Earthrise, Serenity, Legacy, and Venture. However, write-in votes were also accepted. When Xenu, the genocidal alien dictator from the world of Scientology (I am not making that up) became the number one write-in, Colbert joined the fray and his viewers made him the number one overall. Voting is closed and that’s where it stands today.
I like Colbert, he’s funny, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, he does publicize things you name after him (or things he wants named after him). I’d rather the nodule be named after Stephen Colbert than after any genocidal dictator, fictional or not (I would also be against naming it after Hitler, Stalin, or Darkseid). And it’s better than naming it after companies, a couple of which are also in the top 10.
The question I have is whether Serenity was an option because the other rooms are Unity and Harmony, or because NASA has fans of the series cult sci-fi series Firefly. The spaceship in Firefly is named Serenity and you may have seen the movie of the same name. It should be because of the show, but knowing NASA, both were factors.
My perspective comes from working in aerospace for 12 years, with two enjoyable years spent at a major NASA research center.1 I think that NASA has a responsibility to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists, and embracing the pop culture proclivities of future NASA geeks greatly aids this. From that perspective, NASA did this all wrong. Here’s what they should have done:
- Chosen 4 names directly from sci-fi. Serenity is great, then pick 3 others.
- Spread the word through blogs and fan clubs and the press.
- Have Americans choose the name they like best.
- After the votes are cast, have an essay contest related to space exploration. Spread the word through high schools.
- The winners of the contest are invited to the launch, along with the cast and producers and the press.
- Record the event and put the edited video footage on the NASA web site and YouTube.
You may not get as many votes, but you’ll get the right people voting.
- Where, in fact, The Crack Team was formed.