NASA launches moon rocket from Virginia

Posted Sept. 07, 2013, at 5:08 a.m.

A spacecraft was launched late Friday night from Virginia to the moon, a first in the history of space exploration.

The launch from Wallops Island occurred on schedule at 11:27 p.m. EDT, and enthusiastic reports of sightings of the bright track across the night sky began streaming onto a NASA Facebook page. The small car-sized Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.

“Great view from Bayville, N.J.,” read one post. “Good job guys.”

A brilliant arc above the tops of buildings was photographed in Fairfax.

Sightings were reported from Bethlehem Pa., from Staunton, Va. and Duck, N.C.

Bill Anderson spotted it from his apartment house in Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

He took a photo that showed both the dome of the Capitol and the bright flame produced as the rocket’s fuel burned.

People gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The rocket that launched the spacecraft was a five-stage Minotaur V, provided by Orbital Sciences, a Dulles, Va.-based company.

“Headed to the moon,” a NASA tweet read.