KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is still set to launch its mission to Mars next month, despite the government shutdown that took out the vast majority of NASA’s researchers and scientists.

During the government shutdown, a few hundred furloughed workers were recalled at NASA to prepare for the Nov. 18 launch of a robotic probe to Mars. But the space agency still had 97 percent of its workers furloughed as it wore on.

The mission received an emergency exception from the furloughs on Oct. 3, and officials have said that the two-day delay in preparations has not hindered NASA’s ability to successfully execute the mission on time.

“We’re on a nominal pre-shutdown plan at this time,” Maven project manager David Mitchell, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center told

NASA astronauts will once again return to the Red Planet on Nov. 18 to study its upper atmosphere.

“The Maven mission is a significant step toward unraveling the planetary puzzle about Mars’ past and present environments,” John Grunsfeld, a NASA science chief, was quoted as saying in a statement obtained by the website. “The knowledge we gain will build on past and current missions examining Mars and will help inform future missions to send humans to Mars.”

Lift-off is anticipated to happen from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In all, the probe will reportedly take 10 months to reach its destination in Mars’ orbit. It should arrive by September of next year, learned.

The Maven mission will allegedly cost $671 million, and will be conducted for at least one Earth year.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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