Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Atlantis vs. Arachnid

Image Credit: NASA/CNN/WKMG

You may have heard that the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for last week, has been delayed until at least early January. NASA claims, the problem involves a fuel gauge that is reading "empty" when the tank is full, only when the mechanic looks at the sensor, it is working fine. That sounds a lot like my car!

But, as shown in this video from Orlando's WKMG news station, the problem is much more sinister. Evidently Florida is being overrun with giant bugs (this comes as no surprise to them -- from what I hear, Stephen King's "The Mist" was not set in Florida, because no Floridian would have panicked). And one of those bugs apparently attacked the space shuttle.

I'm going to follow the advice of Kent Brockman, the news announcer in The Simpsons, who watched in horror as Homer spilled an ant farm on the space shuttle and ants drifted in front of the camera lens:

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

On a serious note, though, the delay of the Atlantis launch may well delay next summer's planned repair of the Hubble Space Telescope (also using the shuttle Atlantis). As of now, it seems that a small delay likely will not endanger the Hubble Telescope. But Hubble is a sick telescope, and desperately needs that repair mission. So, here's hoping that NASA's engineers can fix those fuel sensors and safely launch Atlantis early next month!

Thanks to Dave Barry for informing me of this alarming event.

Update: It's come to my attention that this video was actually from a previous shuttle launch. But the same thing could have happened again to Atlantis.

Update on the Update: There seems to be some disagreement as to whether the video from which the picture was taken is from this weekend's launch (as I originally said, and as the majority of websites seem to claim), or from an earlier launch. Probably this type of thing has happened before (scouts before the mothership moves in). And, in the big scheme of things, it doesn't matter. Also, of course, the video is now on YouTube.

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