As luck would have it, I had put the finishing touches on Sunday's sermon by then and was ready to go see if the Minotaur V would make the projected appearance. I almost missed the chance when, for reasons unknown, I got it in my head the launch was at 11:35 PM. A quick check with NASA's Facebook post corrected me and my wife and I made it outside at exactly 11:27 PM. Sure enough, one minute later, trending a little from south to north, but heading most distinctly east, came an elongated red light moving silently through the starry night sky. That was the Minotaur's flaming engine in action as the craft headed away from us over the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite a sight. As quickly as it had come, it was gone. But it was an exciting sight to see. I'd hoped to see the classic arching streak in the heavens, but it was too long after launch for that.
The Minotaur V is an Air Force rocket that was being managed by Orbital Sciences.
If all goes well, LADEE will have two missions. The first will be to examine what is believed to be a trace atmosphere on the moon that raises enough dust to create the familiar streaks of light we see in at sunset and that Apollo astronauts were surprised to see at lunar sunset. The second mission will be to experiment with laser communication between the robot and earth. If it works, that system will provide a high speed, high data rate communication system that may allow future astronauts to operator robot avatars on a planet's surface while they remain snug in their orbiting spacecraft.
|Courtesy of NASA|