Photos: Mars MAVEN spacecraft

Updated 2:57 PM ET, Mon September 22, 2014
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A new NASA spacecraft called MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, will help scientists figure out what happened to the red planet's atmosphere. Its elliptical orbit will allow it to pass through and sample the entire upper atmosphere of Mars. This drawing shows MAVEN orbiting Mars. Kim Shiflett/NASA
Is this ancient Mars? An artist shows how Mars might have looked billions of years ago. MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Scientists hope it will solve the mystery of the red planet's missing air and water. Kim Shiflett/NASA
Engineers and technicians work on MAVEN in November at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "After 10 years of working on this, I can't tell you how excited I am to see this finished spacecraft ready to go," said the mission's principal investigator, Bruce Jakosky. Kim Shiflett/NASA
Workers in November get MAVEN ready to be placed inside the nosecone that will protect it during launch. NASA says the project will cost $671 million. Kim Shiflett/NASA
Reporters and photographers wear protective gear as they get a look at the MAVEN spacecraft. Wingtip to wingtip, MAVEN is the same length of a school bus -- 37.5 feet. Kim Shiflett/NASA
A transporter moves MAVEN to the launchpad November 8. Three other active spacecrafts currently orbit Mars: Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001), Mars Express (launched by the European Space Agency in 2003), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched in 2005). Kim Shiflett/NASA
MAVEN is NASA's 10th Mars orbiter to be launched. Three didn't make it to orbit. Kim Shiflett/NASA
An Atlas V rocket launches MAVEN into space November 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Bill Ingalls/NASA