What it was like to watch NASA’s next Mars lander launch to space

Our observation site to see the release is called "Gravel Pit", and certainly lives up to its name. The area is essentially a large plot of rocks and land on the side of a small cliff. It is touted as the best place to see the rocket takeoff. That is, if the fog disappears.

I'm somewhere in the depths of Vandenberg AFB in Southern California, and I'm about to witness the launch of NASA's InSight lander. The spacecraft is scheduled to travel to space on top of an Atlas V rocket, the first United Launch Alliance vehicle. The mission will mark the first time that NASA has launched a spacecraft to another planet from the west coast. And it's also the first time I've seen a launch from California.

The rocket is supposed to be a few miles in front of him. I, but I can not distinguish anything. The nearby marine layer that forms off the coast of California has crawled inland, and it feels like you are standing in a dense cloud. At 4 AM, he makes a spooky scene here at the well. The darkness is closing around us, and the temperature of the fog seems to keep falling. Some flood lights illuminate the area, but we can not see beyond a hundred meters.

I'm with a large group of journalists and videographers, all of whom are clustered on the side of the cliff, hoping to get a good shot of the rocket We have been warned that the fog may be too thick to see the launch, but I have hopes. All the launches I've seen before have created a blinding light that almost burns my eyes. Surely, the light of the rocket ignition will cross the clouds, I think.

In a short time, the final countdown is upon us. Thanks to a speaker mounted on a nearby trailer, we can hear the flight controllers in control of the mission saying that all systems are ready to go. "Go to Atlas, go to the Centaur, Go InSight!" Produce the controllers, referring to the rocket, its upper stage and payload. An ovation breaks out in the crowd. The flood lights are off so we can get the best view for our cameras, and in the background we hear the last countdown: "Five … four … three … two … one …" [19659007] To see what our visual experience was like, watch the video above. Without a doubt, it turned out to be a mission that I will not forget.