By now you've no doubt already shed a tear for Spacetoad, who met his fiery, glorious end during a NASA rocket launch earlier this week. But did you know that he's just the latest in a long line of animals who have run afoul of our nation's space program?
What follows is a look at the unfortunate fauna who have found themselves a little too close to a launchpad. It's the most fitting tribute to a noble Spacetoad we could think of.
Photo: NASA/Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport via Universe Today
Spacebat, who clung nobly to Space Shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank during the countdown to launch the STS-119 mission in 2009.
Photo: Terry Renna/AP
A pair of Northern Flicker woodpeckers tried to burrow a nesting hole in the spray-on foam insulation (SOFI) of the shuttle External Tank (ET) in 1995.
It's not always tragic. Since the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge coexists inside Kennedy Space Center, a huge number of animals—mostly birds and alligators—live near the launch pads. The NASA has a number of measures available, including warning sirens, to deter birds and other creatures from getting too close to spacecrafts. The launch team also uses radar to watch for birds before a liftoff. Which means that sometimes, instead of collisions, you get majestic imagery like the following.
A flock of (probably) cormorants seem to surround the Shuttle Atlantis against a clear blue sky in 2002.
A lonesome bird—that black spot in the plume on the right side of the photo—gets impressively close to the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994.
Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
An indifferent alligator swims past a dead tree at the Banana Creek viewing stand at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in 2006. Behind it, Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Photo: Terry Renna/AP
A flock of bird provides the foreground to this gorgeous shot of the 363-feet tall Apollo 12 rocket clearing the tower at Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in 1969.
Her majesty and a flock of birds. Apollo 9, the second manned Saturn V mission was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 11 a.m. (EST), March 3, 1969.
Top photo: the Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-120 crew head toward Earth-orbit (23 Oct. 2007) by NASA