Science & Technology

Russian-European Mars mission suspended until 2022 over coronavirus

Moscow, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- Russian space agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency announced on Thursday a two-year postponement of an exploratory Mars mission due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The second joint ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet was due to be launched between the end of July and August of this year but has been delayed until between August and October 2022.

Experts at the agencies concluded that tests necessary to make all components of the spacecraft fit for the expedition needed more time to complete.

Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin said in a statement the postponement was “difficult but well-weighed” and that the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in Europe was a significant factor.

“It is driven primarily by the need to maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries,” he added.

“I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified and will unquestionably bring solely positive results for the mission implementation.”

His ESA counterpart Jan Wörner said in a statement: “We want to make ourselves 100% sure of a successful mission. We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error.

“More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars.”

He said in a video conference from Paris that the decision was a “very tough” one to make but that he was sure it was the right thing to do.

Both Wörner and Rogozin agreed that further tests to the spacecraft with the final hardware and software were needed.

The main objective of the mission is to determine if there was ever life on Mars and to better understand the history of water on the planet.

ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin is equipped with a drill to access Martian subsoil and a miniature life-search laboratory kept within an ultra-clean zone.

Under the new schedule the launch is due to take place between August and October 2022. There are only relatively short launch windows, 10 days each, every two years during which Mars can be reached from Earth. EFE-EPA

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