- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is back at Mars.

The Maven spacecraft arrived at the red planet late Sunday night after a 442 million-mile journey that began nearly a year ago. 

NASA confirmed that the robotic explorer slipped into Martian orbit as planned. 

Now the real work begins for the $671 million mission.

Flight controllers will spend the next six weeks adjusting Maven’s altitude and checking its science instruments. Then Maven will start probing the Martian upper atmosphere. The spacecraft will conduct its observations from orbit; it’s not meant to land.

Scientists believe the Martian atmosphere holds clues as to how Earth’s neighbor went from being warm and wet billions of years ago to cold and dry. That early moist world may have harbored microbial life, a tantalizing question yet to be answered.

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