Categories: Launches

Absolutely Incredible Photo: Frog Launches With LADEE

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).

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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