Endangered baby sea turtles plunged further into harm's way from the massive oil slick off the Gulf Coast have found reprieve at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Space center workers have released 22 young Kemp's ridley sea turtles raised from eggs in a nest that was rescued last month from the oiled beaches of Walton County, Fla., on the northern Gulf Coast. The nest was packed in a Styrofoam box with sand and transported by FedEx truck to a secure, climate-controlled facility at the space center near Cape Canaveral.

The massive oil slick occurred in April, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by British Petroleum exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is making a new effort to staunch the flow this week with a cap applied to the broken well on the seafloor.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center is the launch site for the agency's space shuttle fleet.

First hatchlings

After weeks of continuous monitoring, the first group of hatchlings from the rescued nest were set free on July 11 from a Kennedy Space Center beach.

The release and relocation work is involves joint effort of NASA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, NOAA, conservationists, and FedEx.

The collaboration plans to move an anticipated 700 nests from the Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches over the next several months to protect more endangered sea turtles.  

Space center hatchery

Most of the nests that will be collected are loggerhead turtles, but other species such as leatherback turtles, green, and Kemp's ridley may be included in the endeavor, NASA officials said in a statement.  

"So this is the very first Gulf Coast nest from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," a wildlife technician handling the fledgling turtles announced in a NASA video made during the release of the first hatchlings.

"The sign that these animals are starting to pip and come and prepare to emerge over the next two days is very big, good news," she said. "This means they survived the excavation process, they survived the trip across the state of Florida, they made it into our facility, and they're doing what they normally would do, and this is just great. Good stuff."

Located on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the NASA Kennedy Space Center already possesses the expertise and equipment to care for a variety of wildlife. As part of the Deepwater Horizon Response, six brown pelicans, four laughing gulls and one common tern also were released at the space center on June 6.