An unmanned Minotaur rocket carries NASA's newest robotic explorer, the LADEE spacecraft, into Earth orbit and then to the moon.
An unmanned Minotaur rocket carries NASA's newest robotic explorer, the LADEE spacecraft, into Earth orbit and then to the moon. Carla Cioffi/AP
Updated, 11:40 p.m. EDT
The LADEE spacecraft is on its way to the moon. The rocket and its two-stage separation was visible at least from the Washington D.C. suburbs, and likely up and down the East Coast, given the clear skies.
Our original post:
If the skies are clear Friday night around 11:27 p.m. ET, there's a fair chance that anyone from as far south as South Carolina, west into Ohio and on over to New England will be able to see something of NASA's first launch of a mission to the moon from the agency's spaceport on Wallops Island, Va.
Our conservative calculations put the number of people who live within the "visibility map" that NASA has produced at more than 85 million. As we said Thursday, if you're in that area this might be a night when you want to go outside and look up.
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission, as Space.com says, is carrying "a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere, as well as moon dust conditions near the surface."
Of course, light pollution, trees, buildings and cloud cover could spoil the viewing for many. Thankfully, NASA TV will be streaming its coverage.
Space.com has also posted a "how to watch" guide for the launch:
The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog has some advice for people in its area:
If you're in those circles, you may be able to see something in the sky late Friday night when NASA launches a rocket from its spaceport on the Virginia coast.
If you're in those circles, you may be able to see something in the sky late Friday night when NASA launches a rocket from its spaceport on the Virginia coast. NASA.gov
"Find a good view of the south-southeastern horizon so you can see above buildings and trees. Apartment balconies, higher ground and parking decks should suffice. Just after launch, the rocket will speed into orbit around the Earth. For the Washington area, NASA says, expect to see the initial stages about 13 degrees above the horizon. ... Washington and Baltimore should start seeing the rocket at about 40 seconds after launch."