Planned joint European-Russian Mars mission described as 'highly unlikely'

the launch planned for 2022 of a European space mission with Russia to land a robot on Mars is now “highly unlikely”, the European Spac...


the launch planned for 2022 of a European space mission with Russia to land a robot on Mars is now “highly unlikely”, the European Space Agency said on Monday.

The likely postponement of the mission is the result of European Union sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Civil space cooperation between Russia and Western countries has been progressing for decades despite areas of conflict on the ground. But the military conflict in Ukraine has interfered with both sides’ ability to separate what’s happening in space from what’s happening on the planet’s surface.

The ExoMars mission, which includes a robotic rover built by the European Space Agency paired with a landing pad provided by Russia, was due to launch in the fall of this year from a Russian spaceport in Kazakhstan. In 2023, the two partners would then attempt a landing that included a rover, Rosalind Franklin, named after an English scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA.

But in a brief statement lamenting the “human losses and tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine”, ESA, a group of 22 European states, said “sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 highly unlikely. “.

The ESA statement makes another delay of at least two years almost certain for the ExoMars mission, which was designed to traverse the Martian surface to search for clues to potential ancient life with cameras, sensors and a drill. . Trips to Mars typically kick off during a window about every two years when the Red Planet aligns with Earth, allowing for a shorter trip. Funding and engineering issues previously delayed the mission from a 2018 launch. The Covid-19 pandemic and technical issues caused the mission’s latest delay in 2020.

The predicament of ExoMars is the latest civilian space fallout from the invasion of Russia. Last week, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, announced that it would halt launches of its Soyuz rocket from the ESA launch pad in French Guiana and bring back 87 Russian personnel from the site, “thus suspending the cooperation with European partners in the organization of space launches”. This could concern at least four European missions in the coming months.

The war has also called into question the fate of other international space partnerships such as those aboard the International Space Station, an orbital science laboratory maintained primarily by NASA and Roscosmos. The alliances that make up the two-decade-old train station, a symbol of post-Cold War diplomacy, have withstood past geopolitical conflicts on Earth.

The space station relies on both electricity from the American section to power the outpost and engines from attached Russian spacecraft to maintain its orbit. Beginning in 2011, NASA relied on Russian rockets to ferry its astronauts into orbit when the space shuttles were retired. But that changed to 2020 when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule started carrying NASA crews be in orbit. Both parties had recently been negotiate the launch of Russian astronauts on the SpaceX vehicle.

Although Washington triggered tougher export control laws for tech trade between the United States and Russia last week, NASA said the new rules “will continue to enable US-Russian civil space cooperation.” And Kathy Lueders, NASA’s chief of space operations, told a news conference on Monday that she saw no indication that Russia’s commitment to the International Space Station was waning, or that NASA should plan to maintain the orbit of the space station without Russian help.

“It would be a sad day for international operations if we couldn’t continue to operate in space,” she said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Planned joint European-Russian Mars mission described as 'highly unlikely'
Planned joint European-Russian Mars mission described as 'highly unlikely'
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