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Nasa resumes hunt for life on Mars on €522m epic mission

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NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission is seen in this artist's concept released today.  The MAVEN robotic spacecraft fired its braking rockets on Sunday, ending a 10-month journey to put itself into orbit around Mars and begin a hunt for the planets lost water.  Reuters/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout via Reuters

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission is seen in this artist's concept released today. The MAVEN robotic spacecraft fired its braking rockets on Sunday, ending a 10-month journey to put itself into orbit around Mars and begin a hunt for the planets lost water. Reuters/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout via Reuters

REUTERS

MAVEN's 442 million mile journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit. It's designed to circle the planet, not land. (AP Photo/NASA)

MAVEN's 442 million mile journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit. It's designed to circle the planet, not land. (AP Photo/NASA)

AP

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA's RapidScat Wind Watcher among about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of NASA science investigations and cargo lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Reuters/Sandy Joseph and Kevin O'Connell/NASA/Handout

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA's RapidScat Wind Watcher among about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of NASA science investigations and cargo lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Reuters/Sandy Joseph and Kevin O'Connell/NASA/Handout

REUTERS

A Falcon 9 rocket is launched by Space Exploration Technologies on its fourth cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida September 21, 2014.  Reuters/Michael Brown

A Falcon 9 rocket is launched by Space Exploration Technologies on its fourth cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida September 21, 2014. Reuters/Michael Brown

REUTERS

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with more than 2,268 kg of equipment, supplies and science experiments, including 20 live mice for medical experiments, a prototype 3-D printer and an instrument to monitor ocean wind speeds.    Reuters/Michael Brown

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with more than 2,268 kg of equipment, supplies and science experiments, including 20 live mice for medical experiments, a prototype 3-D printer and an instrument to monitor ocean wind speeds. Reuters/Michael Brown

REUTERS

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with more than 2,268kg of equipment, supplies and science experiments, including 20 live mice for medical experiments, a prototype 3-D printer and an instrument to monitor ocean wind speeds.    Reuters/Michael Brown

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with more than 2,268kg of equipment, supplies and science experiments, including 20 live mice for medical experiments, a prototype 3-D printer and an instrument to monitor ocean wind speeds. Reuters/Michael Brown

REUTERS

Nasa's Maven Maven, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral (AP)

Nasa's Maven Maven, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral (AP)

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NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission is seen in this artist's concept released today. The MAVEN robotic spacecraft fired its braking rockets on Sunday, ending a 10-month journey to put itself into orbit around Mars and begin a hunt for the planets lost water. Reuters/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout via Reuters

Nasa's Maven spacecraft has arrived at Mars 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 US$671m (€522.11 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, and is not meant to land.

Scientists believe the Martian atmosphere holds clues as to how Earth's neighbour went from being warm and wet billions of years ago to cold and dry.

That early moist world may have harboured microbial life, a tantalising question yet to be answered.

PA Media