WALLOPS, Virginia (The Daily Times) -- Call it the celebrated jumping frog of Accomack County. Or the ultimate story with legs.
photograph of an unfortunate amphibian launched along with the LADEE
moon mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility went viral, appearing in
scores of media outlets throughout the United States and beyond.
photograph, taken by NASA Wallops Flight Facility staff photographer
Chris Perry, shows a frog silhouetted against the rocket's red glare as
it lifted off Friday night from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
It was the first moon mission launched from Wallops.
Google search for "NASA frog" Thursday returned 12.6 million hits. News
stories about the frog appeared on television networks including NBC,
CBS and CNN, as well as in newspapers and other news outlets around the
The coverage even extended to Australia-which
ironically is the native turf of a different species, Litoria nasuta,
commonly known as the rocket frog.
NASA Wallops Flight Facility spokesman Keith Kohler confirmed the photograph is legitimate and has not been altered.
"It's an island. There are frogs on the island...There just happened to be one there," he said.
set up a remote camera near the launch pad and got a sequence of eight
to nine photographs of the rocket's launch. "The frog showed up in one
of them," Kohler said.
Kohler corrected one explanation for
the frog's presence put forth in some news reports-that it was
attracted by a water cooling system pool at the launch pad.
pointed out the launch pad from which the Minotaur V rocket lifted off
does not have such a system-although a newer launch pad on Wallops
Island which will be used for the upcoming Antares/Cygnus mission to the
International Space Station, does.
That mission, the first to the International Space Station launched from Wallops, is set to be launched Tuesday morning.
initially was unavailable to comment on his work's skyrocketing fame
because he and other staffers at the facility were involved in a dress
rehearsal for Tuesday's launch.
Later he explained how the photograph came to be: "This camera was
one of three I set up around the Pad 0B gantry, on the northeastern
side. I'm guessing it was about 150 feet away from the Minotaur rocket,
give or take a few. Lots of flies out there that evening, so I'm sure
our frog (or toad) had a nice feast that evening. ... I'd say the frog
itself was probably fairly close, guessing around 100 feet from the
photographers elsewhere have caught similar animal-rocket interactions
on camera, Perry said it was a first at Wallops.
never caught anything like this," he said, adding, "Our photo archive
contains launch sequence photos from every launch, and none that I've
seen so far has shown us anything like this before. Definitely a
surprise to us (and a little sad)."
This is not the first time Wallops Flight Facility has been the launch site for a space mission involving a frog.
Orbiting Frog Otolith mission, which carried two bullfrogs aboard an
unmanned Scout B rocket, was launched from the facility in 1970.
experiment was designed to study the effect of weightlessness and
acceleration on part of the inner ear which controls balance.