A small bat that was spotted blasting off with the space shuttle Sunday and clinging to the back side of Discovery's external fuel tank apparently held on throughout the launch.
..."He did change the direction he was pointing from time to time throughout countdown but ultimately never flew away," states a NASA memo obtained by SPACE.com.
...Officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where Discovery launched from a seaside pad, said the bat's outlook after launch appears grim.
"Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to the center said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist," NASA officials said Tuesday. "The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery's climb into orbit."
..."The bat eventually became 'Interim Problem Report 119V-0080' after the ICE team finished their walkdown," the memo said. "Systems Engineering and Integration performed a debris analysis on him and ultimately a Launch Commit Criteria waiver to ICE-01 was written to accept the stowaway."
This isn't the first time a bat has attempted to travel into space. Another bat was seen clinging to the side of the external tank attached to the shuttle Endeavour on its STS-72 flight in 1996. That one maybe have been a bit more cautious, though: It flew away to safety right before launch.
...NASA officials said a bat also set down on the external tank for the shuttle Columbia during its STS-90 mission in 1998. That bat also flitted away to safety during liftoff, they added.