The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this Thursday (17) the suspension of the ExoMars mission, which had the cooperation of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and would send the probe Rosalind Franklin to Mars in September.
In a unanimous vote, the ESA board decided to cut ties with Roscosmos due to the invasion of Ukraine. In communicatedthe agency “acknowledged the current impossibility of carrying out cooperation” and said it was “fully in tune” with the sanctions imposed on the country by its member states.
“As an intergovernmental organization responsible for developing and implementing space programs in full respect of European values, we deeply regret the loss of life and the tragic consequences of the aggression against Ukraine.”
ESA had already anticipated its decision on February 28, when announcement that the September launch was “highly unlikely”, for practical and political reasons. Now the suspension of the mission occurs in the middle other voltages between space agencies due to the context of war.
The future of ExoMars
The ExoMars mission aims to verify if life ever existed on the red planet. For this, the probe must extract samples from the Martian soil at a depth of two meters. According to the ESA, underground research is crucial. There, there is a greater chance of finding preserved signs of life than on the Martian surface, due to solar and cosmic radiation.
The Roscosmos collaboration would provide the launch pad and Proton rocket needed to send the probe into space. The probe itself has instruments provided by Russia.
To replace all that, ESA’s board has authorized the agency’s chief executive – Austrian astronomer and leader Josef Aschbacher – to conduct an “accelerated industrial study” to find the best alternatives for the prosecution. of ExoMars.
One option would be cooperation between ESA and NASA. It was even the initial plan of the European agency, before NASA abandoned the program. Second Aschbacher, the US agency expressed its “strong will” to support the mission.
For now, the future of the mission is uncertain. The launch of the probe will not take place before 2026, he said Aschbacher. “Even that is very difficult.”
Share this article via:
It’s not just ExoMars that’s on hold. Earlier, on February 26, Russia decided to discontinue the launches of its Soyuz rockets at the Guiana Space Center, a launch base used by ESA, in addition to withdrawing its personnel there.
This happened in response to European sanctions that hit, for example, the Russian financial, energy and transport sectors. After that, five ESA missions that would be launched by the Russian spacecraft remained in limbo: two launches of the Galileo navigation satellites, the Euclid space telescope, the EarthCARE satellites (dedicated to scientific Earth observations ) and a French reconnaissance satellite.
Second In a press release, the director general of ESA is also evaluating alternative launch services for these missions. Let there be work.