This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft with the planet Mars in the background.
NASA spacecraft set to orbit Mars
02:41 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

MAVEN won't land on the surface but study Mars' atmosphere from its orbit

Why did ancient Mars change so dramatically? MAVEN sent to get answers

MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft

Mars will be having plenty of other visitors: a spacecraft from India and a comet

CNN  — 

MAVEN has arrived in Mars’s orbit after traveling 442 million miles in the course of 10 months to get there.

It won’t land on the red planet but instead study Mars’ atmosphere from above to answer questions about its climate change, NASA says.

NASA’s MAVEN craft will live up to its formal name – the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft – by helping scientists figure out how ancient Mars changed so dramatically into the planet we know today.

It will be the first mission devoted to studying the upper Martian atmosphere as a key to understanding the history of Mars’ climate, water and habitability.

Mars rover reaches key destination; ‘new science ahead!’

“The evidence shows that the Mars atmosphere today is a cold, dry environment, one where liquid water really can’t exist in a stable state,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator, during a mission preview briefing Wednesday at NASA headquarters in Washington. “But it also tells us when we look at older surfaces, that the ancient surfaces had liquid water flowing over it.”