Scientists hope the newest NASA probe will help explain why the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.
Editors' note: This slideshow was originally published November 16 at 11:03 p.m. PT. It has been updated with additional photos and details from the launch on November 18.
Here, MAVEN's twin solar arrays get checked out.
After the spacecraft slips into Mars orbit about 10 months from now, there will be a 5-week wait (the commissioning phase) as MAVEN checks out its instruments and its science mapping sequences. The orbit will be elliptical, and at the closest point, MAVEN will be about 93 miles above the surface -- meaning, NASA said, that it will pass through the upper atmosphere on each orbit and can sample the gas and ion composition directly.
The parabolic high-gain antenna is how MAVEN will shoot data back to Earth during its one-year primary mission.
At its highest point, MAVEN will be 3,728 miles above the Martian surface, at which altitude it will focus on ultraviolet imaging of the entire planet.