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Absolutely Incredible Photo: Frog Launches With LADEE

An unfortunate frog at the launch of LADEE from the Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia on September 6, 2013. Credit NASA/Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

An unfortunate frog at the launch of LADEE from the Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia on September 6, 2013. Credit NASA/Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Oh my! We’re not sure to laugh or cry on this one (maybe both). This frog gives new meaning to “flying leap,” (or giant leap). This little guy was obviously startled by the ignition of the Minotaur V rocket that launched the LADEE spacecraft last Friday.

We’ve confirmed this image is in fact an actual photo taken by one of NASA’s remote cameras set up for the launch on September 6, 2013 from the Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Wallops spokesman Jeremy Eggers confirms the picture is legitimate and was not altered in any way.

However, we cannot say with any certainty that no frog was harmed in the making of this picture.

Why would a frog be hanging around a launchpad? The launchpad at the Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has a “pool” for the high-volume water deluge system that activates during launches to protect the pad from damage and for noise suppression, and likely there was a (formerly) damp, cool place that was a nice spot for a frog to hang out.

Also, NASA has noted that like Kennedy Space Center, the Wallops Island Spaceport sits among a wildlife refuge. The 3,000 acre Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge is comprised mainly of salt marsh and woodlands and is a habitat for a variety of species, including frogs. NASA writes:

“But how is it possible for wildlife to peacefully coexist with space operations and what effects do rocket launches have on wildlife? NASA’s launch facilities, roads, and facilities take up a small percentage of the area. The rest of the area remains undeveloped and provides excellent habitat for wildlife. During launches, short term disturbance occurs in the immediate vicinity of the launch pads, but the disturbance is short-lived allowing space launches and a wildlife habitat to coexist.”

This is not the first animal oddity to be included in a launch. There are several images of birds flying away from space shuttle launches, and in fact, during the STS-114 launch, a turkey vulture ran into the shuttle’s orange fuel tank (see video below). There was the famous space bat from the STS-119 shuttle launch in 2009, and recently the SpaceX Grasshopper test launch startled a herd of cows:

Turkey Vulture meets space shuttle:

Thanks to Karl Hille from NASA Goddard for helping to track down and verify this image.

Update (9/12/13): NASA has now posted the picture on their Solar System Exploration website (I initially found it on imgur with no credit or source info).

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Petersen September 11, 2013, 4:02 PM

    Frog’s wife: “Don’t go near that big shuttle thing!”
    Frog: “Don’t worry dear…I’m fine…YAAAAHHHH!”
    Frog’s wife: “I toad you so!”

  • CJSF September 11, 2013, 9:19 PM

    Turkey Vulture. No such bird in FL called a Turkey Buzzard.

    • korvu September 11, 2013, 9:26 PM

      ..

    • NancyAtkinson September 11, 2013, 9:58 PM

      Noted, thanks.

      • L. C. Spencer September 12, 2013, 2:05 PM

        Actually, Wikipedia gives several names from different regions, but I guess they’re called everything from “vulture” to “buzzard” to “crow” depending on where you are. Nasty things, but good for the ecology of course.

  • Felipe Ábrigo H. September 11, 2013, 9:25 PM

    how sad. NASA and other space agencies MUST take care of this situation, otherwise space exploration will be stained with the blood of inocent animals, like the whole human history.

    • Nikolay Ivanov September 12, 2013, 9:02 AM

      If you look at it this way it already has been stained. Animals were first in space – the Russians sent the dog Laika first, and both the US and Russia sent monkeys. Many of those were one way missions and they died. NASA regularly sends animals to the ISS for testing and before that on the Shuttle, likewise with the Russians on the Mir station.

    • Marc September 12, 2013, 5:17 PM

      It’s just a frog. You and I are indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocent animals because we live in an industrialized society. Habitats are being destroyed and the eco-system is being altered because of us. If you eat meat, fish, and poultry like I do, then you are responsible for the deaths of innocent animals. All carnivores kill innocent animals. Often these deaths are brutal. Your immune system is responsible for the death of countless microbes. Unless you get your energy directly from the sun like a plant does, your very existence necessitates the death of other organisms. Life is not possible without death. It is a cycle. The launch of rockets has caused the death of some animals. Compared to what goes on everyday on this planet, it’s just a drop in the bucket.

  • bradlee seccomb September 12, 2013, 2:32 AM

    it was so ribbeted by the spectacle it didn’t clear the area in time…

  • betomas September 11, 2013, 10:28 PM

    Why would we assume this frog wasn’t having the time of it’s life? It looks calm and collected–like it’s done this before.

  • Md Fazle Rehman September 12, 2013, 4:08 AM

    is it a frog or a sky diver with parachute!!! :P

  • Jeffrey Scott Boerst September 12, 2013, 6:48 AM
  • roachford September 12, 2013, 4:19 PM

    And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time ‘til touch down brings me round again to find I’m not the frog they think I am at home
    Oh no, no, no, I’m a rocket frog
    Rocket frog burning out his fuse up here alone

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