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NASA Takes Steps To Insure Bird-Free Shuttle Launch

Sounds Of Gunshots, Traps Aim To Keep Vultures Away

When it comes time for the space shuttle Discovery to lift off next month, NASA wants to make sure the ONLY bird in the sky is the one that's rocket-powered.

To that end, NASA plans to deploy such measures as taped battlefield sounds and baited traps to keep vultures away from the Kennedy Space Center. NASA fears the plus-sized birds could cause considerable damage to the orbiter if one should hit the orbiter.

In fact, a vulture did hit the shuttle last July, during the launch of Discovery's first return to flight mission. Fortunately, that collision resulted in no damage to the orbiter... but NASA says another such run-in could catastrophically damage the shuttle, and cause a repeat of the 2003 loss of the shuttle Columbia during reentry.

Consider this: the piece of foam insulation that struck the Columbia's wing on liftoff -- damaging its heat-shield -- only weighed 1.7 pounds. A full-grown vulture can weigh FIVE pounds.

That's why NASA is planning ahead -- already removing one source of food that attracts the vultures, by scraping up roadkill on all roads near the space center.

Combined with audio of gunfire and explosions, as well as baited live vulture traps, and even radar set to detect vulture-sized objects in the sky, NASA believes it will be able to launch its bird in near-complete safety... and without an avian audience.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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