Teams prepping for liftoff had thumbs pointed up Monday as the countdown continued. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution -- MAVEN -- will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The window for launch is 10:28 a.m. to 12:28 p.m. PST. You can watch it live in the stream below.
As the Los Angeles Times' Amina Khan reported Friday, the purpose of MAVEN is to look at the upper atmosphere of Mars. Was it sapped due to a catastrophic impact? Did radiation from the sun chisel away over millennia, finally siphoning off all Mars' water vapor and gas?
Tens of millions of years ago, Mars could have been "a pretty friendly place with natural water, wind, waves and rain," Paul Mahaffy, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told The Times.
MAVEN is the first spacecraft created for the purpose of deciphering the Red Planet's upper atmosphere, according to NASA. The trip will take 10 months, with expected arrival on Sept. 22, 2014. MAVEN will circle the planet, sampling "the entire upper atmosphere on every orbit."
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Live streaming video by Ustream-- Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times