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NASA Launches MAVEN Mission To Mars

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NASA is headed back to Mars today.

A robotic explorer named MAVEN, which stands for "Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN," blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket at the start of a two-hour window that opened at 1:28 p.m. EST.

The mission is to find out if Mars could have supported life back when it was warm and wet during its first billion years. MAVEN's job is to help scientists explain the red planet's radical climate change to a place that's cold and dry.

The MAVEN mission is their first opportunity to study the space environment and the atmosphere simultaneously.

MAVEN is expected to reach Mars on Sept. 22, 2014, and expected to remain in orbit measuring atmospheric gases. It won't land on the planet like the spacecraft Curiosity, now at work there.

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