European space agency suspends Mars mission with Russia

ESA had previously said that the mission was ‘very unlikely’ because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Russia Mars
The next launch window to Mars from Earth would be 2024 [File: Thiebaut/ESA-AOES medialab via AP]

The European Space Agency has confirmed that it’s indefinitely suspending its ExoMars rover mission with partner Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation.

The ESA had previously said that the mission was “very unlikely” because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The decision to suspend cooperation with Roscosmos was taken by ESA’s ruling council at a meeting this week in Paris.

“We deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine,” the ESA said in a statement on Thursday.

“While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states.”

Moscow said it regretted the “bitter” decision.

“This is a very bitter [decision] for all the enthusiasts of space,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said on Telegram, calling it a “shame”.

He added that Russia will “conduct this research expedition on our own”.

The ESA statement added that “the International Space Station programme continues to operate nominally”.

During the weekend, Russian space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin again warned again that Western sanctions on Russia could cause the ISS to crash.

Mission previously delayed

The ExoMars mission had already been pushed back from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for more tests on the spacecraft.

Due to their respective orbits around the Sun, Mars is only readily reachable from Earth every two years. The next launch window would be 2024.

The rover is named after British chemist Rosalind Franklin. Its primary mission was to have been determining whether Mars ever hosted life.

The mission was to have blasted off on a Russian Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan in September and had been scheduled to land on the red planet some nine months later.

Already on Mars are NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed in February 2021, and China’s first Mars rover, Zhurong, named after the Chinese god of fire.


Source: News Agencies