June 4, 1995 in Nation/World

Nasa Gets Lots Of Advice On Shooing Woodpeckers

Orlando Sentinel
 

It’s not often that average Americans can give advice to NASA, but people across the nation are doing so.

Dozens of people are calling Kennedy Space Center to tell them how they can solve their latest launch-delaying problem: rogue woodpeckers that have burrowed 135 holes in the shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank.

As word of the Northern Flicker woodpecker woes traveled coast to coast, calls started coming into the office of NASA test director Steve Altemus, who had never seen one of the birds before but now is in charge of finding ways to keep them away from the fuel tanks.

The pieces of advice all had one thing in common: keeping away woodpeckers without harming the environment.

Spraying stuff to keep the birds away seemed to be the most common advice, Altemus said. He was told to use bitter apple or pepper spray.

Try bright lights or ultrasonic blasters, others said.

One trapper even offered his services, but the two rogue woodpeckers are nowhere to be found, Altemus said.

For the next few launches, NASA will be using six plastic owls that are rotated every 48 hours, observers stationed at 255 feet off the ground with air horns, 10 security cameras and recorded owl sounds to keep woodpeckers away, Altemus said.

So far, the woodpeckers have not been seen since the holes were discovered last weekend, he said.


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