A new robotic explorer has blasted off from Virginia destined to study atmosphere and dust on the moon.
The unmanned rocket, called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer or LADEE for short, will measure the thin lunar atmosphere from orbit.
Scientists hope to learn the composition of the moon’s delicate atmosphere, how it changes over time and whether dust levitates from the lunar surface.
The rocket took off from Virginia’s Eastern Shore late on Friday night and will take a full month to get to the moon.
It is being carried by an Air Force Minotaur rocket from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility.
The move marks a change for Nasa, which has sent all but one of its previous 40 moon missions – including the manned Apollo flights of the 1960s and 1970s – from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The launch was expected to be visible from many parts of the US East Coast.
Costing $280m (£179m), the mission will last six months and will end with LADEE plunging into the moon itself.