Gigaom

The NASA MAVEN spacecraft, which will gather information on Mars’ past climate, is now undertaking its 10 month mission to Mars after a successful 10:28 a.m. PT launch today.

MAVEN will arrive at Mars in September 2014 and then begin orbiting, ranging in altitude from 78 to more than 3,800 miles above the planet’s surface. It will use its on-board scientific instruments to document the characteristics of each part of Mars’ upper atmosphere and ionosphere. It will also measure how the planet interacts with the sun and its associated particles.

The data will help scientists determine if Mars was ever habitable and what caused its atmosphere to thin and water to disappear. While NASA has been sending crafts to Mars for nearly 50 years now, this is the first time a mission has focused on studying the planet’s upper atmosphere. MAVEN’s work will also complement the Curiosity rover goals and inform…

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