Launch of LRO on YouTube

By Phil Plait | June 22, 2009 3:00 pm

NASA has uploaded video of the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on YouTube. It’s pretty cool. I love how they are routinely putting webcams on the rockets now!

It fascinates me to watch how the rocket flame changes in color and shape as the air pressure drops with altitude. And that view of the Earth! Wow.

LRO will enter lunar orbit at 05:43 a.m. EDT (09:43 GMT) Tuesday, June 23. I think it will mark our return to the Moon to stay this time. It’s a first step, but a good one.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Space

Comments (57)

  1. Kyle

    I love these new launch videos, they really stir the spirit in me that maybe we can make space travel exciting to the layman and get them stirred up to support more exploration. Just a hope I know but a good hope.

  2. Kewl!

    Phil, a quick question from my watching the launches in the 1960’s… used to be that radio “hams” would monitor radio transmissions from the various satellites and human launches. Is there anyone who is independently getting these video feeds from launches, etc.?

    J/P=?

  3. Kurt_eh

    Universe Today is reporting that LCROSS is going to live stream it’s Lunar swingby tomorrow. http://www.universetoday.com/2009/06/22/watch-live-streaming-video-from-lcross-lunar-swingby-tuesday/

    Is there going to be anything live-streaming from LRO, too?

  4. john hart

    Nice vid, does anyone have a video link to one of these launches from a high flying jet? I’ve seen pics just no video.

  5. Greg in Austin

    I like all the UFO’s… I mean ice particles… moving to and from the camera about 4:40 into the clip. ;)

    8-)

  6. boneheadFX

    I was Twittering this and using a lot of the same descriptions (WOW! COOL! etc). How could you not? :)

    https://twitter.com/Fratis

  7. dhtroy

    I can hardly wait to show this to my kids, they are gonna love it; that’s a very clear video.

    Thank for sharing this link Phil.

  8. I was at the launch! It was an amazing sight (and sound). I’m can’t wait to someday tell the grandkids about the experience and being a witness to history!

  9. Dennis

    Damn, Greg beat me to the UFO report!

    Very cool video.

  10. Gary Ansorge

    Love how the exhaust plume changes shape as the pressure drops. I do wonder though, why only 1.7 Gs in the early stage of acceleration? Is it because of atmospheric resistance?

    GAry 7

  11. Sundance

    “I think it will mark our return to the Moon to stay this time.”

    I really hope you’re right Phil.

  12. Love it – at last we can easily help our kids connect with the space program.

  13. ham

    @Gary

    Gravitational pull is higher closer to the ground
    and The rocket is heaviest at the beginning of the launch

  14. dre

    I’ve loved these videos since a couple years ago when I saw some from various points on the shuttle – left and right boosters, fuel tank, all looking up and down. I was really thrown for a loop watching the booster videos, following them all the way down to splashdown, then sitting… and waiting… for a tow back in. It was heavy. A real “if a tree falls in a forest” kinda feeling.

    However, the fuel tank video ended just after separation. Why not run it until the camera burns up? Why not run the Centaur booster video until it burns up? I want to see that. Surely NASA knows that some of us want to see that…

  15. @ Greg in Austin:

    Yes, and odd how those ice particles don’t behave like beach balls being blasted by a fire hose, ‘cuz, ya know, that’s how exhaust gas behaves in space. (Or at least according to the resident nuclear engineer).

  16. Charlie Young

    Y’know, folks, there’s no way we’re gonna be able to walk on the moon since those super-dooper moon gloves gonna ‘splode!

    Oh, and Hubble is a fake so we all know Phil is in on the Zionist conspiracy and being paid handsomely to keep it quiet. Either that or he is being fooled like the rest of you sheeple!

    Jes’ kiddin!

  17. fennrysha

    At first I was surprised it would reach the moon so quickly! Not because I don’t know we can get there in days but I’m just so used to time frames in months or years. It’s about time we went back to the one place we can get to in a matter of days!

  18. Charlie Young

    Actually, that camera mounted on the outside of the rocket showed some spectacular shots. Puts you in awe, doesn’t it?

  19. Adam

    Initial acceleration seemed to be very slow – I rather expected to see the rocket jump off the pad

  20. Benji

    What was that white ball we saw at about 4:50? Is it the sun? If so it is freaking awesome. Ok you got me, it is freaking awesome anyway.

  21. coolstar

    “Return to the moon for good”? I certainly hope you aren’t including humans in that wish, but I fear you are. The moon has been a very popular destination for space probes lately, so what if they haven’t been AMERICAN space probes?

  22. ethanol

    Cool! Right at 5:45 the camera captures a glimpse of the cosmic background radiation. There’s science everywhere

  23. T.E.L.

    Benji Said:

    “What was that white ball we saw at about 4:50? Is it the sun? If so it is freaking awesome. Ok you got me, it is freaking awesome anyway.”

    That’s the hot exhaust of the 2nd stage lighting up and continuing to accelerate the spacecraft toward the Moon. The 1st stage (the one with the camera) was at that point completely spent.

  24. Peter B

    #10 Gary Ansorge asked: “I do wonder though, why only 1.7 Gs in the early stage of acceleration? Is it because of atmospheric resistance?”

    No, it’s simply a matter of the ratio of thrust to weight. During the operation of the stage, thrust remains constant, but weight steadily decreases as propellant is used, so acceleration increases. If you compare the speed of lift-off of a Saturn V and a Shuttle, you’ll see the Shuttle leaps off the pad much faster.

    It’s a matter of balancing requirements – if it was important for LRO/LCROSS to get to the Moon in a hurry, then they could have used a more powerful rocket (imagine how much faster the rocket would have lifted off if it had been, say, a Delta IV Heavy). But a more powerful rocket would have been more expensive. So in this case they probably went for the smallest rocket that would do the job.

    #20 Benji asked: “What was that white ball we saw at about 4:50? Is it the sun? If so it is freaking awesome. Ok you got me, it is freaking awesome anyway.”

    No, it wasn’t the Sun. It was the exhaust gases from the second stage engine striking the top of the first stage after the first stage was cast off. That’s why it stops being so bright after a couple of seconds – the first stage has drifted far enough away. But yes, it’s pretty spectacular to watch.

  25. Dwight

    The video I see now makes me think of the various interviews I did with Stan Lebar from Westinghouse and his desire to bring images like this into people’s living rooms. To think live footage like this was a dream 40 years ago.

  26. Flying sardines

    Thanks – awesome video. ;-)

    Couple of questions :

    – What causes the drop outs when it goes fuzzy and we lose the picture? Is it interference or thespacecrafts positioning, the increasing distance or something else?

    – Why do we lose the signal tright at the end and switch to the simulation? Isn’t it possible to have the entire flight webcammed to us? (Wouldn’t that be cool!)

    Please don’t read anything into these questions – I’m no Conspiracy “theorist”, just curious. ;-)

    Thinking of Conspiracy Theorists – are you out there Neil?

  27. Voltaire-o'-2009

    I think it will mark our return to the Moon to stay this time.

    Who do you mean by “our” Phil?

    As we’ve already seen here we’ve had the Japanese Kaguya or furniture store princess, the Chinese Chang’e-1 and India’s Chandrayaan-1 all beating us back with their robot spaceprobes.

    Of course, I ‘spose you could argue their NOT going back but there for the first time ..

    Still can you specify who you meant by “our” please?

    1) The USA,
    2) The Western World generally
    3) Humanity as a whole?

    Whatever the answer -I hope youre right about it – seems to me we took our one giant leap then fell right back on our backsides …and have since sat there crying too long. :-(

    Time we got up again and kept going! :-)

  28. T_U_T

    just a question. What is the much stronger/darker jet in the exhaust, the one in the left up direction

  29. Peter Boulanger

    Very cool. I noticed the ice on the side of the rocket. When they’re sending sterile probes to other Planets, moons, do they have a technique to make sure that surface contaminants on the rocket don’t get onto the target planet?

  30. Voltaire-o'-2009

    Another query regarding the recent /current international Lunar spaceprobe flotilla :

    LRO-LCROSS, (US – any ESA involvement too?)
    Kaguya, (Nippon /Nihon / Japan)
    Chang’e-1 (China*)
    Chandrayaan (India*)

    Is there any interbational collaboration or co-operation bewteen them – are they working together in some ways to maximise the scientific return or is each program totally isolated and independent and not using help from or helping any of the others?

    Are they all covering the same regolith much the same way with much the same instruments or are they covering different ground with different instruments in a way that enables us to combine their works for a broader, more complete Lunar picture?

    Space race or Near Earth Babylon-5 /DS9 type arrangement?
    ————–

    * Sorry don’t know the right names of China or India in Chinese or any of the Indian langauges.

  31. Jon B

    Nerdgasm. POV space launches always amaze me. And, Phil — any idea on when the LCROSS is going to slam into the moon, relative to PST? I so want to turn the optics upward at that moment, to see whether the 6 km plume will be at all visible from down here…

  32. Petrolonfire

    LCROSS? Is that a typo for Lacrosse? Are they playing lacrosse on the Moon now? ;-)

    (Hey when you’ve nothing sensible to say, say something silly instead that’s my motto!) ;-)

    Anyway I’m going to join the chorus of “Ahhh! Awesome video”‘s here! 8)

    @ 29. Peter Boulanger Says:

    Very cool. I noticed the ice on the side of the rocket. When they’re sending sterile probes to other Planets, moons, do they have a technique to make sure that surface contaminants on the rocket don’t get onto the target planet?

    Yes, I think they do. Can’t swear to it or tell you what it is but I’m pretty sure this has been considered.

    Actually, I’d have thought the vacuum and sterilising radiation conditions of space would pretty much do the job of sterilising the exterior wouldn’t it?

    Plus remember that the spaceprobe that’s actually travelling there is tucked away inside the nosecone, shielded and pre-treated – the rocket booster and nose panels fall back to Earth and burn up or end up as spacejunk. I think, right?

  33. Great video. Much, *much* better than the feed we got for Herschel, which was at best was a (bad) advertisement for Arianespace and in truth was nothing more than an ego-fest for the Arianespace executives.

  34. BigBob

    For those who have the chance to watch the lunar swingby LIVE, use the self-assembly web address below to find the page. Reload the page after 5:10 am PDT (12:10 pm GMT).

    nasa dot gov
    /externalflash
    /lcross-lunar-swingby
    /index.html

    Drool
    Bob

  35. @Peter B “It’s a matter of balancing requirements – if it was important for LRO/LCROSS to get to the Moon in a hurry, then they could have used a more powerful rocket (imagine how much faster the rocket would have lifted off if it had been, say, a Delta IV Heavy).”

    A Delta IV Heavy would rise pretty much just as slowly. Payload mass is a small fraction of gross liftoff mass (so much of the rocket is propellant) so the rocket pretty much takes off with the same acceleration regardless of how heavy a payload it carries (within its capacity of course). It’s only once you burn off a good portion of the propellant that the rocket starts to “notice” it’s not pushing on a very heavy payload and accelerations really start to vary with payload mass. Lighter payload flights having a steeper acceleration buildup curve, but all starting at roughly the same initial accel.

    This low liftoff acceleration is typical of the vanilla Atlas V, without solid boosters. I think it’s one of the slowest rockets with the lowest thrust to weight ratio. Even Saturn V was faster, but it was *huge* so it only seemed to crawl away from the tower. Remember the tower was over 100 meters high and Saturn covered that within 11 seconds.

  36. Mark Hansen

    It’s a great video. Definitely needs to be more of it and promoted more.

    Flying Sardines, I thought the answer to your question would be self-evident. Neil’s out there. He’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out there. He’s so out there that he’s tilting at Zionist windmills.

  37. BigBob

    Beautiful LIVE images of the Moon coming in right now!
    Bob

  38. Surprising no one mentioned the UFOs around 1 min. in. Hundreds of ‘em zipping past the rocket toward Earth.

    And then there were the ghosts dancing around on the side of the rocket for a good while before they faded away.

    This video has so much paranormal evidence in it!!!one!!11!!!

  39. Peter B

    Gordan said: “A Delta IV Heavy would rise pretty much just as slowly. Payload mass is a small fraction of gross liftoff mass (so much of the rocket is propellant) so the rocket pretty much takes off with the same acceleration regardless of how heavy a payload it carries (within its capacity of course). It’s only once you burn off a good portion of the propellant that the rocket starts to “notice” it’s not pushing on a very heavy payload and accelerations really start to vary with payload mass. Lighter payload flights having a steeper acceleration buildup curve, but all starting at roughly the same initial accel.”

    My apologies. You’re absolutely right.

    What I should have said was that it would have lifted off much faster if the fuel tanks had only been half full (as fuel is by far the largest weight component of any rocket).

  40. Greg in Austin

    @Todd W.,

    At one minute in, those are leprechauns wearing white cleanroom suits and hats. You see those while its still in the atmosphere (they need oxygen to smoke their wee little pipes.) Once out in the vacuum, what you see are pixies – little pink fairies. They make little bubbles around themselves to breath in space, and can zip around in different trajectories.

    Its so plausible, I almost believe it!

    8)

  41. Greg in Austin

    29. Peter Boulanger Says:

    When they’re sending sterile probes to other Planets, moons, do they have a technique to make sure that surface contaminants on the rocket don’t get onto the target planet?

    The probes are actually inside the payload section, and the outer shell is not sent all the way to the planet, moon, etc. Plus, there are course corrections along the way, which would move the probe away from any trailing debris.

    The probes themselves are assembled in a cleanroom environment (not sure what Class, probably only a Class 100 or Class 10). While that doesn’t preclude contamination, it greatly reduces the chances.

    That is still a topic of concern for probes going to Europa and other icy moons that could possibly harbor its own life forms, but I’m sure scientists are working on it.

    8)

  42. dre

    At one minute in, those are leprechauns wearing white cleanroom suits and hats.

    We call those “scientists” where I’m from.

  43. @dre

    At one minute in, those are leprechauns wearing white cleanroom suits and hats.

    We call those “scientists” where I’m from.

    So, are you saying scientists only exist in fairy tales and the imagination? :)

  44. Greg in Austin

    @dre

    In the semiconductor manufacturing industry, we used to call the workers monkeys in bunny suits. ;)

    Its interesting how the ice particles stay on the rocket long after the initial launch, and not instantly sublimate in direct sunlight.

    8)

  45. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oh, wow! Talk about “new perspective”!

    Btw, seeing those pics, can someone tell me again why it is cheaper to recirculate and eventually carry so much expensive ice to space than to try to run “dry”? OK, caveats, I assume engines like H2/O2 burners will make ice, and I dunno if jets are so much better at this.

    But with that much power and especially heat available, why is it totally unfeasible economics in heating more surfaces? Or better yet try hydrophobic ones, such as one gets with some nanoscale treatments?

    At one minute in, those are leprechauns wearing white cleanroom suits and hats.

    We call those “scientists” where I’m from.

    LOL! And pixies out of the atmosphere is then “theoretical scientists”, I take it?

  46. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    When they’re sending sterile probes to other Planets, moons, do they have a technique to make sure

    I’m not a rocket scientist. But this question came up recently, and I found that there is an (international, IIRC) standard to this, and it doesn’t guarantee sterility for economical and practical reasons. What they do, IIRC, is clean room assembly and an outer alcohol wipe that, while efficient, still may leave many bacterias on these large surfaces.

    It would be exceedingly difficult, long winded, costly and perhaps even impossible to change common materials to such that survive autoclaving or, say, UV sterilization. Electronics and sterilization are not really compatible.

    For an atmosphere lander, as to Mars for example, I got that the large parachutes would contribute, IIRC, up to half a million organisms spread over the surface of the planet in a cloth. And inside the probes are anybodies guess, but probably hundreds of millions among cracks and crevices on circuit boards and what not.

    Those organisms, which are riding inside most of the time, are especially protected. Viable bacteria spores have survived several years in this condition on the Moon to be later taken back and revived. (From a Surveyor, IIRC.) Bacterial spores are, I think, encapsulated with the chitin and/or cellulose that we can recognize from insect and plant eukaryotes. (At least their eukaryote equivalents are.) They are tough critters, and their metabolism is AFAIU kick-started by the slightest nutrient next to their pores.

    OTOH I don’t think, but I can of course not say, that biologists would be especially concerned. Our bacterias aren’t adapted to the environments they will encounter. On top of which, if there is preexisting life, they would be out-competed, finally perhaps even used as nutrient, for the same reason. The most important reason for astrobiologists could be to hold the background contamination sufficiently low to not confuse results while one is looking for native organics or metabolism.

  47. Charlie Young

    Actually the bacterial spores are formed from a glycoprotien similar to collagen. They are tough and I believe they have been grown in culture after exposure to the surface of the moon as well as interplanetary space.

  48. T.E.L.

    Just to clarify the story about viable bacteria coming back from the Moon, it’s not perfectly clear that this is the case:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reports_of_Streptococcus_mitis_on_the_moon

  49. coolstar (#21) I do in fact mean I want humans to return to the Moon. You got a problem with that? Also, please see my comment in the sunspot post.

  50. Flying sardines

    @ 36. Mark Hansen Says:

    Flying Sardines, I thought the answer to your question would be self-evident. Neil’s out there. He’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out there. He’s so out there that he’s tilting at Zionist windmills.

    Yeah, I was setting things up for somebody to use that line! ;-)

    Actually, ‘Neil’ is who seems to be one of the worst fruitcakes ever to post here was predicting the LRO to fail suspiciously – y’know so it doesn’t capture “evidence” that the Moon landings were all faked …’Neil’, for those who don’t know already, also seems to think the ISS and HST are fake “props”, that spacesuits don’t work, that 9-11 was done by the US gubermint, that the Holocaust never happened, that … well it would be easier to list the Conspiracy “theories” he doesn’t believe in. Assuming he’s for real & not just a very unfunny Poe .. :roll:

    Anyway I was asking to see if “Neil’ still thinks its going to fail in suspicicous circumstances and what he “thinks” about the LRO-LCROSS mission so far.. It could prove entertaining in a head-shaking, face-palming sorta way! ;-)

  51. Voltaire-o'-2009

    Um .. Phil Plait, BA, please sir could you answer my question and tell me who you meant by ‘our’ (ie. NASA, the US, the West, Humanity in general, or ..?) I’m kind of curious.

    & too, are all these recent lunar probe missions – LRO, Kaguya, Chang’e-1, Chandrayaan-1 completely separate and duplicating each others work and instruments or is there some co-operation, collaboration and deliberate focus on different areas and instruments for each?

    Is this more a ‘space race’ type situation or more a ‘Babylon-5 /Deep Space 9′ type one???

  52. T.E.L.

    Voltaire-o’-2009,

    The several Moon satellites from various nations as of late are all independent of each other.

  53. Voltaire-o'-2009

    OK, thx TEL. :-)

    Sounds more like a space race situation then..

    But do the various national teams talk & share info with each other at all?

    Do they all cover the same ground with the same instruments?

    If so, doesn’t that seem a bit of a waste & unnecesary duplication?

    Personally, I’d rather see some co-operation, eg. we’ll cover this ground, you can cover that, we’ll use this instrument & you can use this other one, etc ..

    Which nation will be the second to the Moon or the third and who will remember that?

    Wouldn’t it be more memorable, more a “first” and, more importantly, more productive to be part of the first international joint mission to the Moon with, say, an Indian, a Japanese and a Chinese woman-man-woman all stepping out onto the regolith together?

  54. Robert Carnegie

    I assume these rockets are filled with ice-cold fuel, like the recent abort. So heating the thing to prevent ice forming is a very bad idea when you think about it. And then does the thing pick up ice in flight, like planes do?

    If something goes wrong in a launch, I guess these pictures (webcams? they got USB ports? there’s money, I think they strap iPhones to them zoomsticks) may be a big part of the available evidence on how to not do that again.

  55. Greg in Austin

    Robert Carnegie said,

    “I assume these rockets are filled with ice-cold fuel, like the recent abort.”

    Technically, the Atlas V 401 is fueled by kerosene, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, so the fuel is actually way colder than ice (−423.17 °F/−252.87°C). ;) When the liquid hydrogen leaks out (and it will) and mixes with the oxygen in the air, you get ice formations. And you’re right, heating it up only makes this process worse.

    8)

  56. Neil

    @Flying Sardines–
    I’m still waiting for your response over where we first met. It’s odd that nobody told you where I was when you asked. Not surprising though.
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/06/17/shuttle-delayed-until-july-lro-goes-up-thursday/#comment-192686

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