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November 18, 2013 AT 12:35 PM
At 1:28pm ET time Monday, NASA successfully launched its MAVEN mission aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canveral, Florida. In 10 months time, the MAVEN probe will arrive at Mars to try and solve a puzzling riddle – what happened to it?Scientists have long thought, and the Mars rover Curiosity confirmed that several billion years ago, Mars was a lot more like Earth. It had a thicker atmosphere, running water on the surface, and it was almost certainly habitable – though whether life ever evolved there is an open question.Today, however, Mars is a dry desert with a much thinner atmosphere. So what happened in the intervening years? Solving that mystery is one of the goals of the MAVEN probe.