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NASA Should Know Better

2009-03-24

Category: General

One would think they would know better. NASA opened online polls so the public could name the next big chunk of the International Space Station. The public spoke and the new name is "Colbert". (You can read the ABC News article here.)

The big mistake was that they provided a write-in blank. Comedian Stephen Colbert encouraged his viewers to enter his name. They did. More than two-hundred thousand added his name to the ballot. NASA reserves the right to make a final decision, but they are going to get a lot of flak if they defy the American populace.

Assuming that the employees at our space agency are all a bunch of geeks, they probably love this and even expected it. To the more bureaucratic types, this may seem like an inappropriate outcome. They'll worry what people may think. How will it affect the funding?

Well, I have two things to say about that. First, it's too late to gripe about it. The best thing you can do now is to put a good spin on it and use it to get the American people behind the program. On your next naming contest, let's see how many citizens will get on board to vote for Paris Hilton or Oprah. If you decide to let one randomly-selected caller (void in Kansas and where prohibited) go up for a visit, the votes will just pour in.

Secondly, if you were surprised then you have obviously never heard of the Internet. You have never Googled yourself. Your friends never Rick Rolled you. You've never searched for something innocent and accidentally found pornography of your neighbor's son and dog. The Internet is full of free spirits who thrive on doing disruptive things. It's like the hippy movement of the sixties but without any effort. Encouraging people on the Internet to decide something is just asking for it.

I cannot predict whether NASA will stick with the democratically determined name. It could go either way (something else you can find on the Internet.) One thing I can predict is that for the next few months the folks at NASA will think carefully before asking the Internet anything.


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