NASA makes a funny! For realz!

By Phil Plait | September 3, 2009 4:48 pm

NASA logo, on its head

You know, if NASA did stuff like this more often, they’d have far less of a public image problem.

Whoever wrote that press release should get a raise and a promotion.


Comments (38)

Links to this Post

  1. Fake PR from NASA « A Man With A Ph.D. | September 8, 2009
  1. Sir Craig

    That was almost good enough for The Onion… Kudos to NASA for discovering humor!

  2. Keith

    Yes, indeed. I believe I’d turn down the opportunity to have my name attached to an overglorified toilet, too. (lol)

    I still think that the idea of naming a node of the ISS “Colbert” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

  3. gruebait

    Hey, I’ve got an Environmental Waste Accumulator/Recycling Thingy, just like NASA. Just not in orbit…I like the sound of having to “use the Ewart”.

    I liked the next page in the PDF having Mario, instead of “This Page Intentionally Left Blank”.

  4. Adrian Lopez

    I’ve just had an idea:

    If Stephen Colbert won’t have you on his show, perhaps you could start an online contest to name the TV host for an “exclusive” interview with you about the end of the world (2012 and all that nonsense). Make it an ego-boosting thing for the host, to draw Colbert’s interest.

  5. Reed

    There’s usually a few humorous bits in the execute package. One from the last mission (which happened over the Apollo 11 anniversary) had an instructions for a burn to send the shuttle/ISS stack to the moon 😉

    4 Executing this procedure will result in a trans-lunar trajectory.
    5 May cause loads exceedences.
    6 Propellant may not be available for return to earth.
    7 Crew is advised to pack a change of clothes.

  6. Too bad the Comedy Central hour of power is off the air (not even repeats) until September 14th. I’m sure one or the other will at least think of running with this.

  7. Bob

    “Whoever wrote that press release should get a raise and a promotion.”

    As a taxpayer, I’d prefer that my money be used to reward the engineers and technicians who put in long hours to resolve the valve issue that threatened to delay the launch until October. That’s far more important than fourth-rate Onion-wannabe material.

    PS: I take it from the title of this post that Discover’s copy editors are on vacation this week?

  8. Hmmm… now I’ve got to work out an acronym for STEWART…..


  9. Dan I.

    @ 7. Bob

    Lighten up.

  10. almurray1958

    The original news report and a bit about the on orbot use of hammers was in the sts128 FD06 exec package, today’s has a funny bit as well. The acronym in Question is for Debris Avoidance Maneuver (love NASAS SPEAK)

  11. @7, Bob….
    stephen Colbert has done much to put science in the forefront. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a frequent guest, as well as many other sci-ency guys, so, stfu!

  12. Nemo

    I don’t think it really would be good PR for NASA to make a habit of humor. I think Phil underestimates how many Bobs are out there.

  13. Cory

    Just reminding people NASA exists and is still doing some amazing stuff is good press (and could do so much more for a fraction of what we waste for far lesser goals), even with knobs like Bob around.

  14. #11 Nemo….
    If only Bob would watch Nova Science with deGrasse Tyson!

  15. Naomi

    My favourite NASA moment still remains something that happened during the Phoenix mission:

    “After days of struggling with sticky Martian dirt, the Phoenix Mars Lander has unexpectedly succeeded in getting its first soil sample into an onboard laboratory for analysis, jubilant NASA scientists said on Wednesday.

    The breakthrough came after the lander spent days vibrating a screen over its onboard Thermal Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) in hopes that the clumpy soil would break loose and fall into the onboard ovens. The scientists were caught by surprise when the trick worked on the seventh, and likely last, try.

    Members of the normally staid Phoenix team, who have been forced to watch for much of the last week as their first Martian soil sample lingered maddeningly close to the ovens, celebrated by cheering and dancing around the room to K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s 1970s disco hit “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty.”

    I just… find that really endearing ^_^

  16. Petrolonfire

    @ 2 Keith Says:

    I still think that the idea of naming a node of the ISS “Colbert” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    Wow. You’ve been lucky then! I’ve heard far, far stupider things – often from Conspiracy Theorist, Creationist & woo-spoutin’ trolls here! Often from Pres “Shrubya” Bush too. 😉

    I’ve probably also said stupider things than that myself on occassion but that’s another story… 😉

    I plead insobriety – as often as possible! 😉

  17. Petrolonfire

    @8. John Paradox Says:

    Hmmm… now I’ve got to work out an acronym for STEWART

    Testing &


    @ 7 Bob – throws custard pie into Bob’s face. 😉

  18. cpt Jameson Lave de Reorte

    Wow, the wife of the new PM of Japan Miyuki Hatoyama has been to Venus.

    “While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus. It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green.”

  19. MadScientist

    Obviously that was the press release for the southern hemisphere.

    I also get similar effects if I forget what coordinate transforms I have performed in a PostScript program.

  20. Ken

    Let’s see … I’m writing from memory, so this is only the gist of his words but:

    “Hello. I occasionally drive this government vehicle. When I start it up and accelerate, it shakes wildly for two minutes, then runs smoothly for six minutes, then the engine stops completely.”

    – John Grunsfeld, calling in to Car Talk from 700 miles over Hawaii

    He also recently called in again to Car Talk, for advice on loosening stuck bolts. He was using “pretty good tools, bought for him by the U.S. Government” but wanted advice on how to best employ them … :-)

    Personally I love having humor mixed in with business… too bad there are Bobs in the world that just don’t understand that humor and seriousness are orthogonal concepts!

  21. Doc

    I wonder how often the space toilet is going to be called STEWART from now on.

  22. Zucchi

    I love The Daily Show, but it serves them right for all those jokes about scientists being geeky virgins. (They’ve also had segments that seem to ridicule the very idea of scientific inquiry.)

  23. Cory

    @2 why? Is “Serenity” really preferable? The current naming scheme of “Let’s name nodes after positive New Ager crap” is far less lame than naming a node after a famous person, tbh.

  24. There’s also something referenced in the FD 06 Execute Package (software or protocol I’m guessing) called the “Joint Execute package Development and Integration” v3.0, or JEDI :)

    Not to pile on Bob too hard, but I honestly don’t mind an infinitesimal amount of my tax money (out of the small portion devoted to science & tech) going toward a humorous blurb that some overworked NASA employee likely wrote up on his or her lunch break. As long as the other 99.99%+ is focused on science and safety, it’s not a horrible crime to spend one iota being human.

    @Reed & Ken: Nice! Thanks for the laugh, I hadn’t heard about those.

  25. Revyloution

    Does that mean we need to pronounce it ‘Redmill’ since the ‘T’ in Colbert is silent?

  26. Nemo

    @Cory: I assume you meant “more” rather than “less”, but — you realize that “Serenity” is the name of a spaceship from a science fiction show (“Firefly”), right? Nothing to do with New Age. And “Tranquility” is named for the Apollo 11 landing site.

  27. @Nemo: The other proposed names for the Tranquility module (according to Wikipedia) were “Earthrise, Legacy, Serenity, and Venture”. Those aren’t too awful, and “tranquility” itself is cool because of the moon reference. But I do see where Cory is coming from, as NASA has seemed to shift toward mushy names like Spirit, Dawn, New Horizons, and Opportunity, rather than the tougher old names like Mariner, Voyager, Pioneer, and Viking.

    Of course I’m pretty happy naming stuff after mythological figures like Gemini and Apollo and scientists like Galileo, Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Cassini, Huygens, etc. *shrug*

  28. Ah, jocularity.

    I’m reasonably certain that Jon Stewart would get a kick out of having the urine-recycler named for him … or perhaps “acronymed for him” is more accurate.

  29. Beelzebud

    It’s funny how there always has to be someone so worried about their “tax dollars” that they can’t just enjoy something.

    I didn’t like my tax dollars funding a war in Iraq, so you’ll just have to suffer the tyranny of a funny NASA press release!

  30. Wendy

    That’s awesome. NASA *should* name it STEWART, and I bet Jon would be pleased as punch about it.

  31. Nemo

    P.S. I should add that “Serenity”, like “Tranquility”, is also the name of a lunar mare that was an Apollo landing site. But people were voting for it because of the show.

    However, looking at the names of the other modules, I see what you mean. Hmm.

  32. DB

    NASA makes a funny? I could not find this on the website.
    Can someone provide a link.

  33. Cory

    @Nemo, yes, I meant more.

    And you’re right, a reference to a terribly overrated and quickly cancelled show is far better than a reference to a guy who a) has millions of viewers and b) routinely interviews scientists and makes fun of anti-science.

    It’s still New Age-y crap, regardless of its source, tbh.

  34. Al Cofrin

    The name Tranquility was chosen in honor of Apollo 11’s landing site.

  35. fred edison

    What a hilarious press release. No wonder Stewart is disappointed. Apparently S.T.E.W.A.R.T. wasn’t good enough but NASA’s standard sexed up nomenclature of ISS Urine Processor is. Ha! Stewart will never be a #1 contender.

  36. Sam

    BWAHAHAHAHAAAA! That’s hilarious!


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