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One step closer to finding whether there's life on Mars

We could be one step closer to finding out if there is in fact life on Mars after a spacecraft successfully entered the orbit around the planet.

After almost a year of travelling the universe to get there, Nasa's Maven probe is beginning its one year mission to study the Red Planet's atmosphere.

ITV News reporter Sally Biddulph has the details:

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Spacecraft explores 'mystery' of Mars climate change

Nasa's Mars spacecraft is to explore the "mystery" of climate change on Red Planet.

Scientists confirmed that the Maven science vessel will now be able to beam back data after the mission successfully place it into orbit.

Spacecraft explores 'mystery Credit: Nasa

Mars has a relatively thick atmosphere compared to the moon. The more interesting comparison is that we have a fleet of earth science and weather satellites around the earth for us to understand the earth's atmosphere.

The Mars atmosphere, being something like the earth's - Maven is something more akin to our earth observing satellites.

Somehow Mars changed billions of years ago from a thick atmosphere like earth to the very thin one today. That's the big mystery the team with Maven is trying to solve.

– Astronaut John Grunsfeld

Speaking at a press conference, Astronaut John Grunsfeld from the Nasa Science Mission Directorate said the mission aimed to solve the riddle of the planet's history.

Rocket fires cargo ship at International Space Station

Scientist have confirmed an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida deliver a cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA.

The 208-foot tall booster, built and launched by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, bolted off its seaside launch pad at 5.52am GMT, slicing the night-time sky with a bright plume of light as it headed into orbit.

Ten minutes later, the Dragon cargo capsule perched on top of the rocket was released to begin a two-day journey to the space station, a $100 billion research complex that flies about 260 miles above Earth.

Later tonight, a Nasa spacecraft is expected to reach Mars.

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Nasa to focus on sending humans to Mars

Nasa is to focus on sending humans to Mars after announcing that contracts for transporting Americans to the International Space Station have been awarded to Boeing and SpaceX.

Nasa is to focus on sending humans to Mars. Credit: NASA

In a statement Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said: "Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry also will allow Nasa to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars."

Nasa confirms billion-dollar contracts for Boeing and SpaceX

Nasa has announced that manned spacecraft will again launch from the United States after deals with Boeing and SpaceX.

The total potential contract value is $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX, with the spacecraft launching from Kennedy Space Center.

It is hoped the new deal will see crews fly to the International Space Station "in just a few years...ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017," Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said.

NASA to announce 'return of manned spaceflights'

NASA is due to make a major announcement regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States.

NASA has been unable to send people to space since the retirement of the space shuttle programme in 2011 and has relied on Russia to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

You can watch the announcement live here:

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NBC has reported that Boeing and SpaceX are expected to win a contract to start transporting astronauts.

'Life in space' as scientists discover plankton on ISS

Scientists believe they could have discovered 'life in space' after finding traces of sea plankton on the surface of NASA's International Space Station.

The discovery of plankton, shown here on earth, could prove there is also life in space. Credit: Reuters/NASA handout

Following detailed experiments of the samples, experts confirmed organisms can live in space for a number of years despite zero gravity, harsh temperatures and hard cosmic radiation.

Vladimir Solovyev, chief of the orbital mission on Russia's ISS wing, told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS it was not quite clear how the microscopic particles appeared on the surface of the space station.

He said more research was needed but added: "The results of the experiment are absolutely unique."

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