NASA is set to launch a rocket tonight at 11:27 pm EDT that will carry a robotic probe to the moon from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia–and it should be visible across a large portion of the North American eastern coast.
The car-sized, scientific orbiter called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is designed to examine the structure and composition of the moon’s tenuous atmosphere and determine what role lunar dust plays in the environment. Mission results are expected to help unlock many similar long-standing mysteries seen on Mercury, asteroids, and even moons of outer planets.
This will be the first lunar mission launched from the northeast coast of North America and the first for the Minotaur V rocket, which is based on the design of intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Cold War days.
Best views of course will be from the surrounding area of the launch site, however millions of skywatchers across most of the eastern coastline of North America will have viewing opportunities too–weather permitting.
Orbital Sciences, the company that put together the launch vehicle and integrated LADEE into the rocket, put together a series of graphics that show what to look for in local skies, from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
Here are a few select graphics of what the rocket path in the sky will look like from some landmarks.
For a much more up-close view of the launch, head to Wallops Flight Facility, where there is a viewing site set up for the public just 10 miles from the launch pad. Nearby Robert Reed Park will have a large screen, countdown, and play-by-play from NASA folks on site starting at 9:30 pm EDT.
For more information about NASA’s LADEE mission visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ladee