As reported by the Washington Post, a U.S. spacecraft headed for the moon (to circle it, though, not to land) is to be launched for the first time from the facility at Virginia's Wallops Island
. If you'll be in the D.C. area on the night of September 6 and the weather cooperates enough for a launch, it should be worth staying up for. "The robotic mission is to collect detailed information about the moon's thin atmosphere. Sometimes thought to be nonexistent, the lunar atmosphere has been described as extremely tenuous and fragile, but present. According to the space agency, the launch will record many firsts. One will be the first launch beyond Earth orbit from the Virginia facility. It also will be the first flight for the Minotaur V rocket, NASA said. NASA said the five-stage Air Force rocket is an excess ballistic missile that was transformed into a space-launch vehicle. It will boost the space probe into position for it to reach lunar orbit."
Though the satellite is NASA's, the launch will be controlled by Orbital Sciences.