CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, set to be sent to Mars on Monday, has been cleared for launch, officials said.
MAVEN is being sent to Mars to find out why a portion of the planet's atmosphere leaked away, turning the planet in a dry, inhospitable wasteland, CBS News reported.
"After all these years we're just a few days away from going to Mars," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "We're poised to launch on day one of what we submitted as our final proposal five years ago."
Weather permitting, MAVEN will be launched Monday afternoon from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to begin a 10-month voyage to Mars.
"Weather and other things can set you back, but to be there launch ready gives us time to deal with anything downstream," Mitchell said Friday. "So kudos to the team. It's not only on time, it's on budget, it has the full capability that we proposed years ago and it's been fully checked out."
Scientists say understanding why Mars' atmosphere vanished and Earth's did not is may provide some insight to Earth's ancient history, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"If we want to understand Mars as a system, we need to include the role of the upper atmosphere," said Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado-Boulder and principal investigator for the MAVEN mission. "We can no longer just look at the geology and understand it in isolation."