I noted here earlier this week that the “Colbert controversy”—what to do about naming Node 3 of the ISS after comedian Stephen Colbert won an online poll run by the space agency—attracted the attention of Rep. Chaka Fattah, who argued that NASA should bend to the will of the people (or, at least, the voters) and name the “nodule” (as Rep. Fattah described it in his press release) after Colbert. I said that it was fair to assume that Fattah was at least partially joking: why would a congressman, especially one who had been a guest on Colbert’s Comedy Central show, take the time to address this?
Well, it does appear that he is serious. Rep. Fattah tells “The Swamp”, a blog run by the Washington bureau of the Chicago Tribune, that he really thinks NASA should not disregard the results of the poll:
“Funding for space exploration is something where getting the public’s interest is challenging, and having Colbert would bring interest to NASA’s program,” Fattah said. “Over a quarter of a million people or so came online to chime in on the naming question … It just shows what happens when you reach outside the normal circles.”
Fattah said he’s not planning any further action with NASA and hasn’t contacted any officials personally, but the power of the purse is an influential thing.
(The reference to “the power of the purse” is a reminder that Fattah sits on the appropriations subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA.) The question that isn’t asked, though, is whether Colbert is stimulating interest in space exploration, or simply having some fun (and getting some publicity) at NASA’s expense.