Stowaway on space shuttle likely perished
NASA says its ground crews discovered an apparent stowaway on the space shuttle Discovery (STS-119) before its launch on March 15, 2009. It was hoped the intruder would leave before the rockets ignited. But that didn't happen, and the hitchhiker is thought to have died during liftoff.
The stowaway was probably a free-tail bat. It was spotted clinging to the surface of the shuttle's orange external fuel tank. Observers saw it moving around a bit, and they expected it would fly off before the countdown reached zero.
But it didn't, and it was seen on the tank as it began to rise toward orbit. NASA officials figure it was torn off the tank by wind during ascent and incinerated in the shuttle's rocket exhaust.
The bat may have had an injured wing. Here's more.