What Is The Only NASA Asset Named After A Living Person?
Answer: The Colbert Treadmill
NASA has a long history of naming assets after influential astronomers, scientists, and other individual that have both worked directly for NASA or simply contributed greatly to related fields of study. Most of the time the names are selected from a pool of famous but deceased contributors (most likely in a bid to avoid bruising the egos of the living). The Hubble Telescope is a famous example of this: it was named after Edwin Hubble, a scientist who played a crucial role in establishing the field of extra-galactic astronomy. Hubble died in 1953 and the telescope bearing his name was launched in 1990.
The only current exception to this rule is that of the Colbert Treadmill. In 2009 NASA held an online poll to encourage the public to help name the newest module of the International Space Station. Comedian and television host Stephen Colbert urged viewers of his show, The Colbert Report, to write in “Colbert” as their suggested name for the module. Although Colbert ended up being the most popular name in the polls, NASA ultimately declined to use it and instead went with the less popular nomination “Tranquility”. In a nod to Colbert, however, they renamed their new space treadmill the COLBERT (Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill)–making it the only NASA asset that bears the name of a living person.