The 80-foot (24-meter) Minotaur V rocket appears to light up the sky and the clouds in this composite shot from Point Lookout State Park in Maryland.
Sitting on top of the retrofitted ICBM missile is the car-size, scientific orbiter called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which is designed to examine the structure and composition of the moon's tenuous atmosphere and determine what role lunar dust plays in the environment.
Mission results are expected to help unlock many similar long-standing mysteries seen on Mercury, asteroids, and even moons of outer planets.
Composite photograph by Mike Holso
This photograph captures an excited crowd of space buffs with cameras at hand enjoying the Minotaur V launch from the Grundland Astronomy Park in Hampton, Virginia.
Photograph by Garry Qualls
With stars in the background, NASA's rocket appears to cut through the sky above a World War II-era bunker in Cape May, New Jersey.
A blue-gray cloud visible on the left-hand side of this image signifies the second stage cutoff and third stage ignition of the first lunar mission launched from the northeast coast of North America.
Composite photograph by Jack Fusco
This photo shows the dramatic view as NASA's LADEE moon probe launch lit up the waters off of Delaware's Fenwick Island.
"I expected the rocket to appear like a satellite—I was completely floored to see how bright and dramatic the launch was from 50 miles [80 kilometers] away," explained photographer Marion J. Haligowski.
Photograph by Marion J. Haligowski
The suburban skyline above Fairfax, Virginia, is pierced by the Minotaur V rocket launch on September 6.
"It was a remarkably clear night, and the solid booster's plume was unmistakably bright," said photographer Paulo Ordoveza.
Photograph by Paulo Ordoveza
NASA's LADEE moon probe launch lights up the sky and water, as seen here from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
The September 6 launch was the first for the Minotaur V rocket, which is based on the design of intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Cold War days.
Photograph by Jason Houck
This spectacular photo taken from Ocean City, Maryland, captures the third stage cutoff and fourth stage ignition of NASA's Minotaur V rocket as it heads toward Earth orbit.
Photograph by James Allen
NASA's September 6 moon launch was so bright that it was visible to urban sky-watchers under severe light pollution, as seen in this image captured from a rooftop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Photograph by Daniel J. Grinkevich
NASA's moon rocket streaks through the skies above a cornfield in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, in this beautiful photograph taken with a three-minute exposure.
Photograph by Jeff Moreau
Minutes after liftoff, one of NASA's LADEE moon mission late stages and lingering smoke plumes is captured in this stunning image taken from the Potomac River in Virginia.
LADEE launched at 11:27 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 6, from Pad 0B at the space agency's mid-Atlantic Wallops Flight Facility, located on Wallops Island off the coast of Virginia.
The spacecraft will enter orbit around the moon in 30 days and will begin studying the thin lunar atmosphere in unprecedented detail.