WEST COAST ROCKET BLASTS OFF FOR MARS: This morning, for the first time, NASA launched a rocket to Mars from the US west coast. Carrying the InSight Mars lander, an Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:05 am and headed south, parallel to the coast. Dennis Mammana saw the Atlas 5 climb into the sky more than 300 miles away at the Joshua Tree National Park:
"With a waning gibbous moon illuminating the landscape and sky, the Atlas V appeared first as a cherry red glow on the west-northwestern horizon and continued toward the south as it crossed the Pacific Ocean on its way to Mars," says Mammana. "The shot is a quick blending of 35 separate exposures; the breaks within the rocket trail occur between exposures."
Because the launch occurred at the earliest possible moment in the launch window, 4:05 a.m., the rocket's exhaust had time to completely disperse before morning sunlight hit Earth's upper atmosphere about an hour later. As a result no noctilucent clouds were observed.