"NASA will take into consideration the results of the voting," the guidelines said. "However, the results are not binding on NASA and NASA reserves the right to ultimately select a name in accordance with the best interests of the agency, its needs, and other considerations. Such name may not necessarily be one which is on the list of voted-on candidate names. NASA's decision shall be deemed final."
But Colbert isn't the only pop culture fixture to ascend into space.
The micro-blogging service Twitter will also play a role, as Mexican-American Jose Hernandez and Swede Christer Fuglesang intend to tweet in English, Spanish and Swedish.
Bound for the International Space Station about 220 miles above Earth, Discovery's arrival at the outpost about two days after launch will make for cramped quarters as 13 astronauts assemble in space for only the second time. The docking of the shuttle Endeavour in July set the first record for the biggest crowd in space when it also resulted in 13 crew members on the station.
Led by shuttle Cmd. Rick Sturckow, the crew, including Patrick Forrester, Kevin Ford, John "Danny" Olivas, Jose Hernandez, Nicole Stott and Tim Kopra, will deliver more than 7 tons of supplies, including science and storage racks, a freezer to store research samples, a new sleeping compartment, a handful of mice for a bone-loss study and the $5 million treadmill named for Colbert.
When Discovery returns home after its 13-day mission, Stott will remain on the space station until November, relieving Kopra, who has been on the station for the past two months.
Discovery's mission will also include three space walks to replace experiments outside the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, install a new ammonia storage tank (ammonia is used to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators outside), and return the used tank.
Before Colbert signed off, he had one last message for the NASA crew members: "I just want to say we are all huge fans here. And it has been a true honor to make merciless fun of you this year… I am 'go' to launch me. Let's light this candle!"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.