Call it one giant leap for frog-kind … or a celestial hitchhiking fail.
Looks like a frog tried to hop on NASA’s rocket Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which blasted off from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on September 6. “The photo team confirms the frog is real and was captured in a single frame by one of the remote cameras used to photograph the launch,” NASA writes. CNN rounded up the best puns about this photobomb, including “From lily pad to launch pad” (The Independent) and ”An unlucky frog took a giant leap for mankind” (News.com.au).
Less than a week after NASA launched its latest moon orbiter, the world appears to be abuzz, not about the mission, but about a tiny airborne frog that photo-bombed the liftoff photos.
Late last Friday, September 6, the 70-foot (21-meter) high Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s car-sized Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifted off from a pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.
Look closely at the upper left of this official NASA image, and among the cloud of debris flying away from the rocket blast, you can clearly make out the silhouette of the hapless amphibian–with limbs splayed out – presumably wondering what happened to its cosy little lily pad – floating through the sky in a cloud of smoke and debris. Tip of the hat to UniverseToday.com for this amazing find in NASA’s own photo stream of the launch.
Agency officials confirm the photo has not been faked and it was captured in a single shot by one of the still cameras at the launch site that was triggered by the sound of the blast.
Herpetologist David Green of McGill University in Montreal, who has looked at the photos, confirms that the shadow is in all likelihood a frog, displaying a very typical stance of plummeting amphibians seen in nature.
“This indeed looks like the natural position frogs exhibit when falling from great heights,” said Green. The question everyone of course is asking…did the rocket -propelled frog make it out alive from this fiery blast. NASA cannot confirm it.
“I have no idea if the little guy survived but I can imagine he wasn’t too happy,” said Green.
It’s not easy being green … and several metres in the air.
Universe Today speculated that the frog had stumbled upon a pool beneath the launchpad that collects water discharged by the high-volume water deluge system activated during launches. The system helps muffle the sound of launches and minimizes damage to the launchpad.
While this picture paints a less-than-stellar portrait of NASA’s environmental impact, the agency hastens to note that the launch facility is located in the Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge, most of which NASA leases to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “for research and management of declining wildlife in special need of protection.”
“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,” NASA writes.