NASA Nodule: Serenity or Colbert?

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.

  1. Where, in fact, The Crack Team was formed. []

7 thoughts on “NASA Nodule: Serenity or Colbert?”

  1. It already is open to taxpayers, and I’ve said nothing to suggest I want the vote closed to anyone.

    In fact, right now it’s open to everyone with an internet connection, assuming they don’t try to limit it to American IPs (and they probably don’t). Limiting it to taxpayers would be a huge expense, as the only way to guarantee that (as far as I can see) would be to have something on your tax form, which I think we all can agree is complicated enough. Other schemes I can think of would be too insecure. My suggestion would be to leave it as is, open to everyone.

    But really, that is completely tangential to my point.

    NASA would like to get the American public excited about space exploration, and inspire people to get involved in it directly so they can continue recruiting the best and the brightest (not that I consider myself in that group – I just give great interviews 🙂 )

    Colbert doesn’t give a crap about space exploration (AFAICT), he cares only about promoting himself. And that’s certainly important for him, he’s an entertainer and that’s part of the job. But promoting Colbert that way doesn’t help NASA, or the American public, or taxpayers. It’s just something nice for his career and his fans. If he did care about this stuff, at the very least he would have instructed fans to write in Tek Jansen:

    BTW, NASA had a clause that it had the final say, so this could be a moot point.

  2. Good because I like pointing at moots.

    Although not really an opposing view, I just feel that Nasa is funded by tax payers (through goverment spending) and since “the people” have no say at all when it comes to Nasa programs, letting the average “not in the Nasa-club” American vote on a capsule NAME for goodness sake, is the least they can do.
    You are right. They won’t even allow it because the voted name won’t have a sound which properly represents the all-Holy creation of America’s space agency.
    Here’s my take on Nasa.
    Getting to the Moon = great, but guess what? barren and boring.
    Creating a safe and energy/money saving re-entry vehicle, the space Shuttle = fail on all levels. But it’s all we got so we use it. Better yet “let’s hold a contest to have private companies think of a new model for us. X-prize! yay!” WTF?
    I fear the day when an alien meets us on Mars and asks us for an Earth manual.
    “Oh we don’t have one yet because we don’t fully fund things like sea floor exploration, or degrading climate conditions. That’s left up to mostly private companies.”
    The alien would be like… “well what the *^%$ are you doing up here then?”
    “uh…. we need to know if there MAY have been water on Mars. It’s uh important or something.”
    Yes I imagine the astronaut speaks like Beavis and Butthead.

    I’ve also heard the arguement about all the great inventions and ideas companies come up with like super plastics and memory foam… all thanks to Nasa projects. But those innovations are invented ON THE GROUND. Couldn’t we just SAY we are going to Mars while they keep inventing cool stuff here?
    Don’t get me wrong. I know many cool things come out of Nasa. Spy satellites are cool. Thanks for the GPS stuff, too. That rules.
    Maybe I’m being too bitter against something that I can’t control.
    So please just let me put my vote in to name the new capsule “Crack of my Ass”. Just so I can show my son through the telescope,
    “See that dot? That’s the space station, and that part sticking out of it is the Crack of my Ass.
    “Gee dad. Isn’t the Crack of my Ass beautiful?”
    “Yes son. Yes it is.”

  3. I was just informed that NASA doesn’t do GPS or spy satellites. The space branch of the Air Force does.
    Sorry NASA. Tried to throw you a bone…
    Thanks for the rockets that get ’em there, though. I guess you get credit for that much.

  4. Actually, I’m don’t think there’s a gov’t agency that does more earth science than NASA. They do planetary exploration, and earth’s a planet, so it gets covered. In fact, while I was there, MOST of the work was related to earth science. No GPS or spy stuff, but my project did handle satellites. These were earth orbiting SAR radar sats from the European, Japanese, and Canadian space agencies. So if you’re for exploring climate changes, ice floes, oceans, etc., right here on earth, NASA has you covered.

    As for the moon being boring, you must not have heard my conspiracy theory:

    Oh, um, rockets today are designed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In fact, another Crack Team member is a genuine rocket scientist. Hmm, maybe we should be taking credit…

  5. So it comes full circle. The answer is obvious, and I’m sorry for not interpreting your point from the start:

    The Crack Team must be responsible for naming the nodule.

  6. The elegant solution to this naming quandary:

    Stephen Colbert presents “Serenity” !!!

    And the exclamation points are always to be included. I could see a fantastic line of toys and posters made available to the public, promoting orbital science. NASA couldn’t have asked for better.

    But it will be difficult for Mission Control: please evacuate and seal StephenColbertpresentsSerenity!! while we do a pressure tests on the docking hatch at StephenColbertpresentsSerenity!!. Standing by for acknowledgement from StephenColbertpresentsSerenity!! …….

Comments are closed.