On March 15, 2009, during launch preparations for STS-119, a free-tailed bat, injured and frightened, latched on to the foam insulation of Space Shuttle Discovery’s external propellant tank. His wing was broken and thus his life would soon end. But in a moment of bravery and ambition, his little claws buried deep into his foamy vessel, he became master of his own fate. He would not succumb to starvation or predation. No, he would soar into bat legend. He would touch the stars. NASA observers had believed the bat would fly off once the shuttle started to launch, but he did not.
For the last time, he felt the primal joy of flight; for the first time, the indescribable feeling of ascending toward his dream—a place far away from piercing screeches and crowded caves, stretching forever into fathomless blackness.
Whether he was consumed in the exhaust flames or frozen solid in the stratosphere is of no concern. We know that Space Bat died, but his dream will live on in all of us. We must never forget his shining example. We must never forget to be brave in the face of overwhelming adversity. We must never forget to strive every day to be more than we are. We must never forget the final, heroic flight of Space Bat.
Once the shuttle’s rockets began pushing its massive frame toward the heavens, he turned his little eyes skyward. The shuttle gained speed, terrifying speed, and he knew he would soon slip the surly bonds of the Earth. His grip would eventually fail as Discovery sped faster than a bullet toward the inky blackness of space.
As Discovery’s rockets roared to life, he held his ground, although he was certainly afraid. In his adrenaline-soaked brain he may have thought, “Can a bat still be brave if he’s afraid?” I imagine he heard the answer echo, as though off the walls of his dark, cavernous home:
"That is the only time a bat can be brave."
This weekend, my friend is throwing a 10 Year Spacebat Anniversary Party. It’s a fundraiser for the “Space Travel Supply Company”, which is a real company because #Seattle. He asked if I could make something to auction off for the fundraiser.
My girlfriend found a bunch of 10x10" wooden picture frames with plywood over them. I spent a few minutes in illustrator and whipped up this: