Posted by: Taylor Hoff | March 20, 2009

The Great Astro Bat

Hitchhikers in space! Bet that bat was scared out of it’s little mind. -TDH

Bat wants to be an astronaut, clings to NASA’s shuttle Discovery

A free tail bat holds on to the external fuel tank on the space shuttle Discovery during countdown. (NASA Photo)

As the countdown commenced for Sunday’s shuttle Discovery launch, NASA officials at the Kennedy Space Center noticed an unusual black speck on the shuttle’s external fuel tank.

The speck remained on the spacecraft as it cleared the launch tower and headed into space.

Upon examination of images and video taken during the event, wildlife experts confirmed the speck was a free tail bat. And the poor thing apparently had a broken left wing and “some problem with its right shoulder or wrist.” Yet, the little guy hung on for what surely was the ride of its short little life. A life that no doubt came to a screeching halt at some point during Discovery’s ascent into orbit.


(The red ring on the NASA photo at left indicates the spot where the bat was seen.)

NASA sounds all sorts of sirens and alarms intended to warn away keep birds and wildlife from the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge — and even radar to detect those that get too close, but for reasons unknown the bat stayed put. He was even observed shifting positions during liftoff by the final inspection team, which had hoped it would fly away before the engines ignited.

According to NASA, this wasn’t the first time a bat tried to hitch a ride during a countdown. In 1998, a bat landed on the tank during countdown of the shuttle Columbia’s STS-90 mission.

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