Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Did Bat Hitch a Ride to Space?

The bat, seen clinging to the external fuel tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery before its launch on Sunday, apparently clung for dear life to the side of the tank as the spaceship lifted off.

Closeup of a bat clinging to the fuel tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery during the launch Sunday, March 15, 2009.(NASA)
And what a ride.
The shuttle accelerates to an orbital velocity of 17,500 milers per hour, which is 25 times faster than the speed of sound, in just over eight minutes. That's zero to 100 mph in 10 seconds.
Did it make it into space? No one knows yet. But photos of Discovery as it cleared the launch tower showed a tiny speck on the side of the tank. When those photos were blown up, it became apparent that the speck was a bat.
Flight director Paul Dye said no one has seen the bat since.
"I heard that it was clinging to the tank at liftoff, but I don't think anyone has seen it since," he said.
Launch controllers spotted the bat after it had clawed onto the foam of the external tank as Discovery stood at Cape Canaveral's Launch Pad 39A.

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