Scope Diagram Astrocamera.Net - Astrophotography by Dave Kodama

NASA/ULA InSight Launch

An early morning launch by NASA and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) put the InSight probe on its path to Mars. This was a significant milestone because this was the first launch of an interplanetary probe for the west coast of the U.S.

Normally this type of launch is done from Florida to use the Earth's rotational speed to add a boost to the rocket thrust. This time, due partly because of a busy schedule at the Kennedy Space Center, the launch was done from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is normally used for satellite launches into polar orbits and ballistic missile tests.

Viewing location

The photos show the launch at various phases and distances, but all at the same magnification.

Viewing conditions were not great and I lost sight of the rocket soon after first-stage cut-off.

The launch went off as scheduled (4:05am PDT), which was too early for the rising rocket to catch morning sunlight, the moon was near 3rd quarter, and light coastal clouds and fog catching city light pollution further reduced contrast as can be seen in the wide-angle photo looking south. City lights account for the glow at the left. The Vincente Point lighthouse is also in view in the lower left of the wide-angle photo. To the lower right of the overexposed moon is the constellation Scorpius.

Launch photo info

  • Date/Time: 5 May 2018
  • Location: Vincente Point, CA
  • Camera: Nikon D600 @ ISO 1250
  • Exposure: 1/30 sec.
  • Lens: Nikon 180mm telephoto, f/2.8
  • Mount: photo tripod
  • Image Processing: Lightroom, Photoshop