The backstory is that NASA ran a contest to name a module in the International Space Station. There was a huge write-in for Steven Colbert, after he sort of suggested it on his show. Well, Colbert won out over a number of other more, shall we say, traditional names. I am pretty sure that NASA never saw something like that coming. But you know they were not going to name something as high profile and expensive as the ISS after a fake news commentator/comedian. But NASA did find a nice way out of their dilemma. From Balloon Juice:
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.”
That’s pretty damn funny. My hats off to NASA. (I just sort of happen to work for a different government agency, and I honestly can say that I seriously doubt we would ever do something like that. We’re too damn important and serious.)