VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An Atlas V rocket successfully blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 10:02 a.m. Monday carrying a satellite.
The rocket carried NASA's eighth Landsat satellite. The mission is seven years in the making and many of the scientists at Monday's launch were glad to see it go so well.
"We have ignition. Release. Full thrust. Engine is up and running. And the vehicle's cleared the tower," said the voice over the speaker at the launch site on base.
Just after 10 a.m., flames shot out of the Atlas V rocket and it blasted toward the sky.
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission is the satellite that will record the changes on the planet, such as the amount of natural resources and energy used.
"This can tell us things about how much water is being used on our crops; we can actually detect the presence or absence of fires," explained Bruce Cook, deputy project scientist for Landsat.
"And that allows us to determine water use, really around the world," Becky Forsbacka, Thermal Infrared Sensor manager.
Locally, that would mean knowing how much water is being used on crops and where run-off goes.
"The goal is going to be to assist our farmers, to help scientists with more information. It's real-time knowledge from way up in the sky and here it is in our back yard at Vandenberg Air Force Base," said U.S. Rep. Lois Capps.
As the minutes passed, the rocket became smaller to the naked eye.
"The vehicle is now 15 miles in altitude," said the voice over the speaker.
"That burn that you saw here so spectacularly lasts for a little over four minutes and then the booster stage shuts down, separates and then the upper-stage Centaur vehicle ignites and takes it the rest of the way," explained Tony Taliancich of United Launch Alliance.
NASA invested $855 million for design, development, launch and on-orbit checkout. Once in orbit, the satellite will circle the globe 14 times a day from 438 miles above the Earth's surface.
Anyone will be able to access the information collected at no cost.
"Landsat data also being freely available allows people to develop new products. Google Earth used it to help launch their product," said Cook.
As the rocket went farther out of sight, it picked up speed. "Four hundred twenty-eight miles downrange, traveling at 10,400 miles per hour," said the voice over the speaker.
The Landsat 8 was designed to last five years but has enough fuel for 10 years. The engineers are hoping it will outlast the design just like Landsat 5. That satellite lasted 29 years in space.