NASA's MAVEN probe was launched Monday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas 5 rocket en route to Mars to discover why the Red Planet is losing its atmosphere.
Though the dawn skies were cloudy over Florida, the rocket blasted off without complications and the arrival of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft into its Martian orbit is expected by the end of September 2014, NASA said.
"Why do we appear to have had a climate on Mars that could have supported life at the surface early on, and we don't today?" asked Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, lead scientist on the MAVEN project.
"Something fundamentally changed, and we want to understand what those changes were," he said.
The mission's goal is to study the evolution of the atmosphere on Mars and its interactions with the sun throughout its history, in order to find out why so much of the atmosphere was lost and what turned the Red Planet into a cold desert.
Jakosky said the first reports from MAVEN will be available in early 2015 since he expects scientists to take a few weeks to process the data gathered by the spacecraft. EFE