Stephen Colbert becomes honorary Boeing Starliner astronaut

'Late Show' episode features Boeing spacecraft, spacesuits

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Comedian and well-known space enthusiast Stephen Colbert recently brought the “Late Show” to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Colbert filmed an episode that airs Friday night at Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA where several Starliner spacecraft are being assembled. 

The CST-100 Starliner was selected by NASA to shuttle commercial crew members to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was also awarded a commercial crew contract.

Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, now with Boeing, and the “Late Show” host tried on the new Starliner spacesuit, which Boeing revealed last month, and got in a mock-up version of the Starliner.

The whole Starliner suit weighs 20 pounds, half the weight of the current NASA spacesuit, and includes a lightweight helmet that zips up, instead of a traditional latch, and is lined with foam.

"How does it feel to be the first honorary Starliner astronaut?” Colbert asked. “I’ve made it. This is what all this comedy work has been leading up to.”

The true-to-size mockup of the spacecraft is labeled “ColbertOne.”

NASA is relying on Boeing and SpaceX to return to launching astronauts from U.S. soil. The agency currently pays Russian space agency Rocosmos more than $70 million per seat to shuttle American astronauts on the Soyuz spacecraft.

The Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. Boeing is contracted for six missions to the space station. 

The first uncrewed Starliner flight test is scheduled for June 2018. Two commercial crew astronauts will fly on the spacecraft for an August 2018 test before it takes on the first NASA-contracted Space Station mission.

The "Late Show" episode filmed at Boeing's facility airs at 11:25 p.m. Friday on CBS.

"Let's light this candle," Colbert tweeted Friday.

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