NASA Could be “Criminally Negligent” Over Brian the Bat Death

[/caption]NOTE: This was the Universe Today’s contribution to April Fools Day, just in case you were wondering. However, it isn’t a joke that a bat died during a shuttle launch. Brian will forever be remembered by the Brian Bat Foundation

On Sunday, March 15th, Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Cape Canaveral, beginning the highly successful STS-119 mission to “power up” the International Space Station (ISS). Unfortunately, a tiny stowaway was discovered clutching onto the external tank of the shuttle and refused to budge. For the whole of Sunday, NASA waited for the free-tailed bat (unofficially named “Brian” by yours truly) to fly away. Alas, Brian held on to Discovery all the way up to launch. NASA even took a photo of the shuttle as it cleared the launch tower, Brian still attached. He wasn’t frozen to the external tank (infrared images showed the bat was warm), a wildlife expert studied the last pictures of Brian, informing the space agency that Brian had in fact suffered a broken wing and was unable to fly away, even as the rockets ignited.

Although NASA was not thought to be responsible for the death of the little animal at first (calling the whole incident “sad but unavoidable”), a Florida state official is pursuing legal action against the ground staff at the Cape. According to state animal protection law, NASA may be charged with negligence, after making little effort to prevent “animal interaction” with the launchpad and apparent unwillingness to remove Brian by hand before launch. However, as investigated by the local press, there are far more animal deaths during shuttle launches than we realise…

NASA can be prosecuted under the same animal protection rules that cover Florida highways (Ian O'Neill)
NASA can be prosecuted under the same animal protection rules that cover Florida highways (Ian O'Neill)
First and foremost, the safety of the crew must be ensured,” said NASA spokeswoman Francis Rae, “it is unfortunate that the agency could be reprimanded over the death of an animal, but in the interest of safety and smooth launch operations, we will enact any preventative measures deemed necessary by the state.”

It turns out that NASA is a little shocked that a Florida official has decided to pursue the issue. NASA and Florida have enjoyed very close ties ever since the beginning of the Space Age and this is the first accusation of criminal negligence over the death of an animal (possibly in reaction to the huge international interest in the story). Little did the agency realise that the death of one unfortunate bat could land them in court.

NASA enjoys total freedom of the airspace above the state, however the agency must still abide by the laws of the state, no matter how insignificant the rules may appear when compared with the endeavors of US activities in space.” — Statement by the District Attorney’s Office, Florida

According to local press, NASA can be fined for the preventable death of the bat under the same state laws that govern goods transportation (i.e. company-owned vehicles are liable if they hit endangered animal species on Florida highways). Therefore, if a truck hit a free-tailed bat on a freeway, and the driver was pulled over by a police officer, the company who owns the truck would be accountable. “This is exactly the same rule that is being applied to NASA, a free-tailed bat was killed during the operations of the shuttle. In the county’s eyes, that’s no different from a Walmart truck running over a protected animal. Like a cougar [the state animal],” reported the Orlando Sentinel.

The Ares V at the launchpad, including the possible configuration of the anti-bat mesh (NASA)
The Ares V at the launchpad, plus artist's impression of what the anti-bat mesh would look like on launch day (NASA)
Regardless of the outcome to the possible legal action, NASA has already prepared plans for an anti-bird/anti-bat mesh that will surround the launchpad after exterior inspection but before launch. This is where NASA tripped up, they performed an inspection on Saturday, March 14th, of Discovery’s external tank, but the pneumatic cranes (used to lift inspectors to the upright shuttle) were removed from the launchpad on launch day. Therefore, if NASA had to remove Brian by hand (if they knew he was injured), the Discovery launch would have been delayed further still, to wait for cranes and personnel to arrive on the scene.

This preventative measure isn’t thought to affect the remaining shuttle launches (before the shuttle is decommissioned in 2010), but the mesh will be built into the launch tower of the Constellation Program scheduled for launch in 2015 (pictured above).

Estimates place the cost of the mesh at around $10 million,” said Rae. “However, if you factor in unforeseen project overruns and design issues, that cost could easily triple. Possibly more. We simply do not have the technology to fabricate such a large, lightweight net. It will, however, be worth it in the long-run.”

It would appear the mesh couldn’t come too soon for one NASA employee. Soon after Discovery launched on that fateful Sunday night, the Orlando Sentinel interviewed launch safety officer Aniline Lo who went into some detail about the real costs of a shuttle launch.

“…of course animals die during launches. We’ve had collisions with eagles during ascent, we’ve even found dead rats, mice and gophers left on the pad, there has also been injuries to some larger animals in the past. As the Cape is surrounded by water, it is hard to prevent alligators straying too close […] shuttle exhaust can hurt these reptiles, making them difficult to treat. It also seems the flash from the boosters cause confusion in some animals, including rabbits, actually attracting them to the launch pad at lift off. That always ends very badly.” — Aniline Lo, NASA Safety Officer

Lo then went into detail about the clean-up operation after launch. “It’s a shame, the adrenaline is pumping through your body before launch, but it is up to my team to clear up the mess which is the downer,” she said. “If you thought roadkill was bad, imagine it roasted. Hundreds of thousands of dollars post-launch could be saved in man-hours [for clean-up operations] if these animals are prevented from getting near to the rockets.”

The sad story of Brian the Bat captivated the world, but it looks like his demise was the tip of the iceberg. He was first named on the social networking site Twitter and on On launch day @DiscoveryBat appeared on Twitter, apparently tweeting from space and tweeting to this day. Even mainstream media refer to the ill-fated free-tailed bat as “Brian”. Consequently, the Brian Bat Foundation was set up to recognise animal endeavours in space. However, it appears the Foundation’s scope must now be extended to all the birds, angry alligators and rabbits on, or near, the shuttle’s launchpad during lift-off.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

41 Replies to “NASA Could be “Criminally Negligent” Over Brian the Bat Death”

  1. This is complete BS. So what if a bat dies during a shuttle take off. What about all the bird strikes NASA has suffered, are they being fined for them as well? How about fining airlines for all the animal strikes they incur, or fining drivers every time a kangaroo decides to jump out in front of a moving vehicle (yes I’m from Oz). Give me a break from over-enthusiastic enviromental eco-freaks please!

  2. How many bats were killed annually by hunter and how many mice were killed in laboratory? I personally think that they should look for the “person” or “things” that tear off the bat’s wing rather than blaming some innocence body, sounds very ridiculous.

  3. Brian died for a noble cause ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ha he sure did. This is great stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Check out todays APOD. HEAD 9000.

  4. I don’t understand why they named the bat “Brian”. I should have been “Bruce”…Batman would have been so proud!

  5. Knowing a few hyperactive enviro nuts myself… It’s hard to tell if this is a joke or not >_>;

  6. Lol, I was wondering what the April fools prank was going to be this year.

  7. Not as Foolish as the December21 2012 Double Google adds on the home page of UT I’m seeing.
    (stereo Propaganda?)

    Sadly they have been there before April Fools.
    But every day is A foolish day to click on them.

    Just saying. ๐Ÿ™‚

    A mesh for 10million just to protect a few bats?, I don’t think so. You’d have to be batty to even consider such a thing.


  8. My Lord…don’t we have bigger problems to spend tax dollars on? This is a “sad state of affairs”. How many families could benefit from this expenditure instead of lining some idiot’s pockets from frivolous lawsuits?

  9. My condolences to the bat and his family, but animals have been getting killed by NASA rocket launches for decades. The bat just happened to be noticed.

    Funny how the public reacts like sheep whenever the media tells them to jump.
    Otherwise they remain clueless.

  10. I’m hoping this is just an April fools day joke! But judging from the length of the article and the detail, I am thinking otherwise. If it’s not, then all I can say is first of all, is there ANY evidence at all to prove the the bat DID actually die??? And secondly, how many chickens and other animals has the ‘Florida official’ eaten himself since complaining about this? If 1 or more, then I think he should also pay $10,000,000 himself per animal he has consumed since!

  11. The april fools joke is one article up.

    This one is for real and I can understand their views –not that I agree fully.

  12. That poor poor poor poor poor bat. It must’ve been terrible for it to get burned THAT badly. I hope it’s still alive. Also, these people are meanies! I don’t like what they’re saying! They’re yucky!

  13. This IS a joke. They are allowed more than one April Fool’s joke. There are two links to the Orlando Sentinel…the first does not link to a story about NASA and the second one links to the Wikipedia article about April Fools Day…do you need it spelled out for you more than that?

  14. Uh, before we spend ANYTHING on this alleged crime of the century, first we must state the obvious; PROVE THAT THE BAT DID INDEED DIE (AND NOT FLY AWAY) DURING SOME PHASE OF THE LAUNCH! WHERE IS THE BODY! IF YOU CAN’T REMIT, YOU CAN’T COMMIT!

  15. April Fools joke?
    Perhaps – – –
    I have seen government officials make rulings and take positions that make this action appear down-right logical. For example, Congress has decided Asthma inhalers damage the ozone layer (they don’t), therefore changes must be made that double their cost and reduce their effectiveness. Furthermore, the Congress of the United States has passed a law requiring the installation of a drain cap on all public pools (read HOA pools) costing up to $13,000.00 each, so people don’t get sucked into the drains. The penalty for failure to do so is worse than the penalty for tax evasion. That’s why most of the HOA pools in Las Vegas will not be open this year.

  16. Donโ€™t sue NASA. We canโ€™t rule out that Brain the Bat may have been suffering from clinical depression (due to mortal injuries) and therefore was possibly suicidal. While we must respect his right to die, perhaps itโ€™s better to sue the big Pharmaceutical companies (deeper pockets than NASA) for negligence in failing to provide Prozac sample packs.

  17. Hopefully the state of New York Can sue United Airlines for killing those birds that got that Airbus in the Hudson River the other day. I better be careful driving to work the other day I think I ran over an ant on the freeway and she was a queen too (And I live in FL)

  18. The Thunderbolt group is behind this- I checked their site a few minutes ago and they have just added a link to to PETB- People for the Ethical Treatment of Bats- this is supposedly a division of PETA- What is the world coming to?????

  19. You think this is funny, but I read (on the internet) that the bat has retained his own legal council. Pretty soon, Florida’s official legal action against NASA is gonna be a joke compared to what Brian and his lawyer(s) have planned!

  20. First off, who said “Brian”? What a dumb name. Fred is better.

    Second: Nasa can avoid prosecution with the following: A “bat Bomb” invented during WWII showed that bats go into a hibernation in altitudes and fall to around 2500 before waking.
    The WWII bats were fitting with incendiary bombs and dropped in trays from a plane. They floated down, woke up and snuggled into every dry corner of the target city.

    The timed incendiaries went off and created a fire-storm impossible to put out.

    Therefore, FRED, made it after all.

  21. While it’s a joke, I do think NASA should have done all it could perhaps using stun darts or something to incapacitate it temporarily and then take it out of the craft manually.

    NASA doesn’t have the most humane treatment of animals in its history. But regardless, I think they should take every step to preserve life – especially since when they go off into space they represent the entire planet, including our little nocturnal friends.

  22. What’s so improbable about this actually being a true story?

    The lefty moonbats (no slur on Brian intended) in the environmental movement have been pushing for animals to have equal rights with humans for decades. And it’s already gone way beyond that, as the Swiss have officially recognized that brocolli and other plants have dignity too and must be treated with the proper respect:

    It’s should be pretty obvious by now that brocolli is at least as intelligent as some of its proponents.

    And do you realize that literally trillions of bacterium are killed with every rocket launch? Hey. paramecium got rights, too!

  23. Are bats mammals? Or are they a part of a secret plot to overthrow the government? I say that this is conclusive proof that the government knows about their secret society and want nothing more than to stop them!

    …Is it April Fool’s Day? Oh, NO! This means the bats will strike today! Nooo!!!

  24. These distasteful and horrid comments from Pat Macroch is simply disgusting! Please remove all those nasty, rude comments.

  25. I think this stories is ridiculous. Ok so they get a crow bar out and pry the bat off and then what? Pay someone to come get it? Leave it? Then its their fault for not paying to get the wing fixed. Maybe a vet will get it for free but now we lose millions on wasting time to launch the shuttle. I think this is a stupid reason to take a company to court. Especially now, the economy is down what could be better, lets get that company that killed that bat instead of working to improve the economy, lets avoid that problem! Animals become endangered and extinct but it is almost unstoppable, One bat will not suddenly kill them off. And if you think that we can cave every endangered species then you need to think about the world. There are alot more problems than that.

  26. So Sad. The professionals have left this once respected forum and we are left with 90% trash and 10% substance.

  27. I think Brian the Bat was doomed as it was and common sence should be shown. however with the hippi crowd screamimg about anything they can get their hands on no wonder common sence takes a back seat on such occasions. For all we know Brian was as thrilled with the ride as i would be. NASA should save their money and stand up for themselves for once as they can. its another stupified win for the minority.

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