MAVEN will take a look at ISON during its trip to Mars.
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Despite last-minute worries about the weather, the Mars orbiter Maven successfully launched Monday from the Kennedy Space Center, which adjoins the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Merritt Island in Florida. NASA launched the unmanned spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket at 1:28 EST in a perfect send-off Monday amid a round of applause from Mission Control. Fifty-eight minutes after launch, the craft separated from the upper-stage booster that set it on its course to Mars.
Maven’s primary objective is to study the Martian atmosphere in order to better understand what caused it to drift away into space, leaving the Red Planet a cold and barren wasteland. Evidence gathered by NASA’s Mars rovers shows the ancient planet once had a warmer climate and liquid water that flowed across the Martian landscape–an environment suited for the existence of microbial life.