NASA's newest Mars flyer to explore atmosphere

NASA's newest Mars flyer to explore atmosphere

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- NASA hopes its newest Mars spacecraft lives up to its know-it-all name -- Maven.  The robotic explorer is due to blast off Monday afternoon on a 10-month journey to the red planet.

It will orbit Mars and study the atmosphere to try to understand how the planet morphed from warm and wet to cold and dry.  The $671 million mission is NASA's 21st crack at Earth's most enticing neighbor.

It comes on the heels of the Curiosity rover, which is still rolling strong a year after its grand Martian arrival. There's another rover operating on the surface and three spacecraft overhead -- two U.S. and one European.

An orbiter from India will be arriving around the same time.  Monday's launch is scheduled for 1:28 p.m. EST.

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