When Nasa had a question out of its orbit it needed help from Nelson man Rick Coleman, a man well-versed in space, to sort it out.

The space Mr Coleman knows best is cyberspace and when he got an email from Nasa, he initially thought it was a hoax.

After all, it's not every day Nasa wants to talk to you about the second longest place name in the world, or pass that information on to an astronaut.

Three years ago, Mr Coleman, a website designer, posted a message on an internet bulletin board about Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu in southern Hawkes Bay. It is the second-longest place name in the world, according to Wises New Zealand Guide.

Last month Nasa's David Scott emailed Mr Coleman about the message, looking for information on the place.

It wasn't until a couple more messages had been exchanged that Mr Coleman realised he was talking to the payload communications manager for the international space station. He was told Mr Scott and American astronaut Ed Lu had a word-of-the-day joke running. Mr Scott and his colleagues would find an odd word the astronaut had to include in his daily reports back to earth, and Mr Lu would do the same for those on the ground.

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu was under Nasa's spotlight, when Mr Lu was compelled to add it to the list for observation when the space station passed above New Zealand.

"The name is too long for listing, so it's been renamed as Ed's Hill," Mr Coleman said.