NASA’s Mars InSight lander and two piggyback probes were lofted through California’s coastal fog into space before dawn today, beginning a six-month, 300 million-mile journey to study the Red Planet’s mysterious interior.
It marked the first interplanetary mission to be launched from the U.S. West Coast.
The launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base was shrouded in murk when the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifted off at 4:05 a.m. PT. Near the pad, the typically foggy weather blocked the view, but not the sound.
“We really heard it,” NASA chief scientist Jim Green said after liftoff. “Car alarms went off in the parking lot.”
Spectators across a wide swath of the Southern California coast got a good look at the rocket’s red glare as the Atlas ascended to orbit.