The Atlas 5 carrying the Mars Science Laboratory blasted off right on time on Saturday morning. It was just about perfect countdown and launch.
The only slight blip was the weather with cloud cover sending the range red every now and then during the countdown. Each time the launch criteria were broken they quickly came back in bounds again and there was no fear that weather was going to spoil the day with such a long launch window.
In fact the only real question was would the range be red at the planned T-0. The answer was clearly no as the countdown exited the last planned hold at T-4 minutes and entered the terminal countdown.
Right on the window opening time the sound suppression system on Launch Pad 41 started dumping water over the pad and the flame trench. Seconds later the Atlas 5 main engines and SRBs were lit and the rocket was on its way to Mars.
Jeff was on top of the VAB to capture the launch and we also had our cameras on the launch pad. Our picture gallery contains a selection of our best shots…