As we mentioned in our coverage of Sunday's launch of space shuttle Discovery, which NASA personnel characterized as "picture-perfect," a bat was spotted clinging to the shuttle's external fuel tank (left) as liftoff approached. The same thing happened before a shuttle launch in 1998, and that bat flew away as the shuttle took flight, according to the space agency.
But as we noted on Twitter, thanks to Orlando Sentinel reporter Robyn Shelton, the latter-day bat was still present as Discovery blasted off (circled in photo at right) and most likely did not survive. NASA issued a press release today confirming that assessment.
"Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to [Kennedy Space Center] said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist," the statement read. "The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery's climb into orbit." (While this is a sad footnote to Discovery's launch, we can think of worse ways to go—what a send-off!)
Photos courtesy of NASA