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CU Students & Faculty Watch Their Spacecraft Leave For Mars

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - NASA's Maven robotic explorer is headed for Mars with scientists and engineers at the University of Colorado leading the mission.

Students and faculty in Boulder have been working towards the day Maven blasted off for nearly a decade. On Monday they were on campus to watch their efforts race into the sky from Cape Canaveral.

"Maven is going to be looking at the upper atmosphere of Mars," CU senior Josh Lothringer said.

Lothringer is one a few dozen students who worked on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, with a capital "N" in EvolutioN -- or "Maven" mission.

"I worked with the science team doing some data analysis and data visualization," he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: CU's 'Maven' Spacecraft

Scientists think the red planet was much more Earth-like four billion years ago and want to know what happened, and Maven may give the answer.

"There aren't many universities where students can come and get involved from the ground up and actually build a spacecraft," CU Professor Fran Bagenal said.

Bagenal said about 100 people at the university in all worked on Maven from analysis to the ship itself.

"They had to build the instruments, a lot of them were built here or part of them were here," she said. "It was designed and put together by Bruce Jakosky who is on the faculty here at CU."

"Pretty enthusiastic about everything, very excited," Lothringer said.

RELATED: NASA Launches CU-Led Robotic Explorer To Mars

Maven will get to Mars in about 10 months and hopefully get some answers by 2016.

"It's kind of surreal, you know, something that's traveling tens of thousands of miles per hour and is going to be on another planet," Lothringer said.

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