A layer of fog intruding on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California kept nearby observers from seeing any sign of Saturday’s predawn launch of an Atlas 5 rocket carrying a robotic NASA probe to Mars. The only images of the Atlas 5’s fiery takeoff came from remote cameras placed at the launch pad, or from distant viewing points away from the poor visibility.
The 188-foot-tall (57-meter) rocket took off at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT; 1105 GMT) Saturday from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg with NASA’s InSight mission heading to Mars.
The Atlas 5 delivered InSight on the proper trajectory, with enough velocity to escape the grip of Earth’s gravity. InSight is scheduled to land on Mars on Nov. 26.
Read our full report on the mission for details.
These photos show the Atlas 5 rocket on its launch pad during final launch preps, including rollback of the mobile gantry around 11:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, four-and-a-half hours prior to liftoff. The photos also show the Atlas 5’s fog-enshrouded blastoff, with 860,000 pounds of thrust from the launcher’s RD-180 main engine.
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