Thursday, September 12, 2013
NASA's unmanned LADEE rocket headed to the moon with an unexpected passenger, a small frog which was caught on camera launching into the air from its home in the marshy wetlands surrounding the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
One of three still-cameras setup around the launch site, triggered by sound, caught the small frog in the air. The frog is hard to miss in the photo with its arms and legs spread wide surrounded by debris from the wetlands, also lifted up by the power of the rocket's engines. The photo was posted to NASA's Instagram account.
"We got back to the office after the launch at 12:30 a.m. and we're all pretty amused and amazed," Chris Perry told ABCNews.com. "It was also sad to see a frog go like that. As much fire as that rocket is putting out, I have to imagine it got injured."
Perry had set up three cameras to cover the launch and the power of the engine knocked over his tripod 150 feet away. The camera that captured the photo shoots approximately six frames per second and Perry says the frog only showed up in one of the photos.
"There's debris in the other photos, but no frogs. He was probably moving pretty quickly," said Perry.
"I'm guessing it was about 150 feet away from the Minotaur rocket, give or take a few," said Perry. "Lots of flies out there that evening, so I'm sure our frog (or toad) had a nice feast."
Keith Koehler at the Wallops Flight Facility tells ABC News that hundreds of frogs live in the acres of marsh lands surrounding the launch pad. NASA says they do everything possible to protect the wildlife living in the area.
"We've never seen this at Wallops before. I've been here 30 years," said Koehler.
The rocket is carrying the NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) for a 100-day mission circling the moon. The purpose of the mission is to gather measurements and explore the moon's atmosphere, sending information back to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
NASA employees based at the Wallops facility say they haven't located the "famous" frog, but hope that it survived its wild ride.