By Marcia Dunn, Associated Press 5:21am, September 7, 2013 - Updated 7:20am, September 8, 2013
an unmanned Minotaur rocket carries NASA's newest robotic explorer, the LADEE spacecraft, which is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, after launching to the moon from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. (AP Photo/NASA's newest robotic explorer is on its way to the moon.
An unmanned rocket blasted off from Virginia's Eastern Shore late Friday night, carrying the LADEE spacecraft.
It was a change of venue for NASA, which typically launches its moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch provided a rare light show along the East Coast for those blessed with clear skies.
NASA expected the launch to be visible, weather permitting, as far south as South Carolina, as far north as Maine and as far west as Pittsburgh.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, should reach the moon on Oct. 6. It will orbit Earth's closest neighbor for a few months, analyzing the ever-so-delicate atmosphere and lunar dust. The six-month mission costs $280 million.
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