Last night NASA launched its latest moon rocket carrying the LADEE probe from its Wallops Island Launch Facility in Virginia, and the blaze coming out the back was visible across much of the East Coast. The most spectacular view though, was from the NASA cameras that were sitting up close to the action.
If this launch looked different from most other launches (like the Space Shuttle), that's because it was. LADEE was sitting atop a Minotaur V rocket, which is really just derived from a re-purposed Peacekeeper ICBM. ICBMs are designed with quick acceleration in mind, and the LADEE shot away from the launch pad, well, like a rocket. After a few minutes the probe was placed into a highly-elliptical orbit, which should take it to the Moon in a little less than a month.
LADEE has so far experienced a slight hiccup with its attitude positioning, but that shouldn't be much to worry about. As it is, I'd say it's already proved its worth in tax dollars, if for nothing else than the spectacular shots emerging of the rocket rising above the eastern seaboard:
Image credit Paulo Ordoveza