An animal rights group is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to penalize NASA for failing to remove a great horned owl and three hatchlings from a shuttle pad before launch.

All four birds were killed when Endeavour blasted off Thursday."They've delayed launch for various reasons and saving the lives of infant animals is a pretty good reason," said Leslie Gerstenfeld-Press, a biologist for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

NASA knew Wednesday that the adult owl was there but did not have time to remove it from an isolated part of the tower before launch, said space agency spokesman Ed Harrison.

NASA officials didn't know about the hatchlings until their bodies were found on the tower.