Flying Frog Photo-Bombs Rocket Launch

A still camera on a sound trigger captured this intriguing photo of an airborne frog as NASA's LADEE mission blasts off from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The agency's 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. The condition of the frog, however, is uncertain. Credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility/Chris Perry
A NASA camera accidentally captured an airborne frog as the agency’s LADEE moon mission blasts off from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. 
Credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility/Chris Perry

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. Tip of the hat to for this amazing find in NASA’s own photo stream of the launch.

Closeup of the frog silouette taken  during NASAès moon rocket launch on September 6, 2013. Credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility/Chris Perry
Closeup of the frog silhouette taken during NASA’s moon rocket launch on September 6, 2013. Credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility/Chris Perry

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.


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Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.