‘New Horizons’ Spacecraft Off Toward Pluto

Warren E. Leary in the New York Times:

19nasa2bNASA launched mankind’s first space mission to Pluto today when a powerful rocket hurled the New Horizons spacecraft away from the Earth and off on a nine-year journey to the edge of the solar system.

A Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket rose from a launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 2 p.m., Eastern Time. That was almost an hour later than planned because of low clouds that obscured a clear view of the flight path by tracking cameras.

“We have ignition and liftoff of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on a decade long voyage to visit the planet Pluto and then beyond,” said Bruce Buckingham, NASA’s launch commentator.

Less than an hour later, all three stages of the booster rocket worked as planned and the 1,054-pound spacecraft separated from them and sprinted away toward deep space.

More here.