Cape Kennedy, Florida -- Polyurethane foam's eco friendly rating may have been given a boost recently: a free-tailed bat hung on to space shuttle Discovery's foam-coated external fuel tank during the 16 March countdown to launch the STS-119 mission, and remained there as it cleared the tower, according to analysts at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
The launch team spied the bat with its claws in the foam on Discovery tank at Launch Pad 39A and, despite hopes that it would fly off before ignition of the engines, it stayed in place and was seen changing positions from time to time, said a NASA statement, 17 March.
But a wildlife expert said later that the small creature may have had a broken left wing and had other injuries, and was likely to have perished quickly during the shuttle's climb into orbit.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge coexists with the Kennedy Space Center, so a number of measures are routinely used to deter birds and other creatures from getting too close, and a radar watch is kept for birds before liftoff.
Discovery has now docked with the Space Station, where it is delivering and installing the fourth and final set of solar arrays, which will provide power for the station to expand."