NASA Launching New Mission to Mars Today: How to Watch Live
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket stands poised to launch NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft toward Mars from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after being rolled out to the launch pad on Nov. 16, 2013. Liftoff is set for Nov. 18.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA probe is scheduled to launch to Mars today (Nov. 18), and you can watch it live online.

The space agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft (MAVEN) is scheduled to launch atop its Atlas 5 rocket at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT) from here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can watch the launch live on SPACE.com via NASA TV, beginning at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT).

The  $671 million MAVEN will investigate the atmosphere of Mars in order to understand what could have happened to the planet in the past. Scientists think that ancient Mars had a thick atmosphere that supported liquid water, however, at some point in the planet's past, that changed and Mars morphed into the cold desert it is now. Mars' atmosphere is now about 1 percent as thick as that of Earth's. [NASA's MAVEN Mission to Mars (Photos)]

Maven will orbit Mars, looking for clues about what happened to the planet's once-thick atmosphere.
Maven will orbit Mars, looking for clues about what happened to the planet's once-thick atmosphere.
Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

"We really do believe that at one time Mars was a planet that was not much unlike Earth is today," NASA chief Charlie Bolden told reporters Sunday (Nov. 17). "We want to know what happened. What happened to its atmosphere? Did it get scraped off or what? So MAVEN is going to help us understand the interaction of the sun with the Martian atmosphere."

While MAVEN — the 10th Mars probe launched by NASA — travels to Mars, the probe will be able to measure the environment it encounters during its trip, scientists working with the probe have said.

This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet, with a fanciful image of her home planet in the background.
This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet, with a fanciful image of her home planet in the background.
Credit: NASA/Goddard

Once MAVEN completes its 10-month journey to Mars, it will join three other active probes in orbit around the Red Planet. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and the European Space Agency's Mars Express are all studying Mars from above the planet.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and the Opportunity rover are still actively investigating Mars from the surface, and MAVEN has the ability to help them with their missions. The new probe has the ability to act as a relay point between Earth and the rovers on Mars in much the same way as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey do today. MAVEN's relay system will act as a backup communications system for the rovers.

No planet is more steeped in myth and misconception than Mars. This quiz will reveal how much you really know about some of the goofiest claims about the red planet.
The original 'Face on Mars' image taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter, in grey scale, on July, 25 1976. Image shows a remnant massif located in the Cydonia region.
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Mars Myths & Misconceptions: Quiz
No planet is more steeped in myth and misconception than Mars. This quiz will reveal how much you really know about some of the goofiest claims about the red planet.
The original 'Face on Mars' image taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter, in grey scale, on July, 25 1976. Image shows a remnant massif located in the Cydonia region.
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The Indian space agency launched its first Mars-bound probe earlier this month. The Mangalyaan spacecraft left Earth on Nov. 5 and is scheduled to arrive in orbit around the Red Planet on Sept. 24, 2014, two days after MAVEN is expected to arrive.

NASA centers around the country are holding viewing events for the launch today. Facilities associated with NASA in Washington, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia will all host special events in honor of the launch. For a full list, visit NASA's MAVEN website: http://www.nasa.gov/maven.

Visit SPACE.com for the latest MAVEN news, photos and videos. You can also follow MAVEN coverage through the Mission Status Center at SPACE.com's partner, Spaceflight Now.

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.