TV's Stephen Colbert Stars in NASA Video for Space Fans

Stephen Colbert Makes a Vulcan Hand Sign
Stephen Colbert makes the Vulcan hand sign from "Star Trek." (Image credit: NASA)

Faux political pundit and TV funnyman Stephen Colbert recently expressed his love for space via a PSA video extolling the virtues of NASA.

"NASA is doing great things at the International Space Station," Colbert says in the video. "Besides working around the clock to create new flavors of astronaut ice cream — come on caramel space chimp swirl — they're also developing new vaccines for salmonella, MRSA [a staph infection] pneumonia..."

Colbert, star of the Comedy Central news show "The Colbert Report," is a long-time space fan who even has a treadmill on the space station named after him.

The video came about when a pair of employees at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., contacted Colbert's staff asking if he'd be willing to help them publicize the work NASA is doing. [Photos: Comedian Stephen Colbert Visits NASA]

Jason Lou, a contract specialist with NASA Langley's procurement office, and Lisa Scott Carnell, a Langley medical researcher, are part of the NASA FIRST (Foundations of Influence, Relationships, Success and Teamwork) program to promote leadership within the agency.

Lou and Carnell decided to work on outreach.

"We're here, we do cool things," Lou said in a statement. "But, while general public has good will toward the agency, it doesn't have a full grasp of the things we do. For a lot of people, NASA was the shuttle and when the shuttle went away ... and for a research center, it's even tougher getting the message out."

They picked the right target in Colbert, a long-time supporter of NASA.

"I've always been a huge fan of space," Colbert says in the video. "I love looking up at the stars and wondering what distant planets are out there to be discovered, and can we frack them for methane?"

Colbert has hosted numerous astronauts and space experts on his show, and in 2009 entered, and won, a contest to name a new module for the International Space Station. While NASA ultimately decided not to call the module Colbert (it became the "Tranquility" node instead), the agency gave a new piece of exercise equipment his moniker as a consolation prize.

Officially called the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT), the $5 million space treadmill launched on a space shuttle flight in 2009 and is now floating on the orbiting laboratory.

In one last display of space-geek cred, Colbert closes the video by showing off a Vulcan hand salute, a la Star Trek.

"If you'd like to learn more about how NASA is improving our lives, visit, or as they say in space … " Colbert says, holding up his hand for the split-fingered sign, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.