NASA Launches Maven, Robotic Explorer to Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -
NASA’s Maven, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
NASA’s Maven, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NASA’s newest robotic explorer, Maven, rocketed toward Mars on Monday on a quest to unravel the ancient mystery of the red planet’s radical climate change.

The Maven spacecraft is due at Mars next fall following a journey of more than 440 million miles.

Maven set off through a cloudy afternoon sky. An unmanned Atlas V rocket put the spacecraft on the proper course for Mars, and launch controllers applauded and shook hands over the success.

“What a Monday at the office,” NASA project manager David Mitchell said. “Maybe I’m not showing it, but I’m euphoric.”

Ten years in the making, Maven had Nov. 18, 2013, as its original launch date, “and we hit it,” Mitchell said.

“I just want to say, ‘Safe travels, Maven. We’re with you all the way.’”