Since 1968, NASA’s main launch site for spacecraft has been the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.
The island is also home to a national wildlife refuge which shares a natural border with the spaceport. This means that, occasionally, wildlife residents pay the flight center a visit.
Most animals don’t really pose a problem for NASA. But one species that has caused a stir on multiple occasions is the American alligator.
The island’s estuary has created an ideal environment for alligators, and fishing interdictions ensure that there’s a stable, sizable food source.
The animals don’t have a reason to leave the area, but every now and then, they like to lounge around in the sun.
They have been spotted in parking lots, on runways, and on streets. So far, the worst thing they’ve done was to briefly hold up traffic during rush hours.
Not ones to miss an opportunity, scientists have begun to study the alligators.
They see the reptile as a species indicative of the overall health of the wildlife refuge—a canary in the coal mine. As NASA uses new technology, components, and chemicals, they want to make sure that none of them are having an adverse effect on the environment.