Gravity Probe B Launch Observation

From: Brian Webb (
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 19:54:33 EDT

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    Hi All:
    I was at Vandenberg AFB for this morning's Delta II/Gravity Probe B launch.
    We were about 3.9 miles from the pad. The weather was clear with minimal
    cloudcover and haze.
    Through my 135mm telephoto lens, the launch was impressive. Not only could I
    clearly see the various parts of the vehicle while it was on the pad, I
    could see them as the vehicle climbed. It was quite a sight.
    According to a NASA public affairs officer, Gravity Probe B is large - about
    the size of a delivery truck. I imagine that would translate to a fairly
    bright visual magnitude.
    The intended orbit was to be as close to polar as possible. After launch,
    the mission scientist told us the spacecraft was inserted into an orbit that
    missed the Earth's poles by only 300 meters!
    Brian Webb
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