Europe’s mission to land a life-seeking rover on Mars may not launch in September as planned, following the suspension of cooperation with Russia, and is expected to be delayed by at least four years, the European Space Agency said. Thursday.
The $1.68 billion ExoMars project would launch on a Russian Proton rocket and then use a Russian landing mechanism to place its Rosalind Franklin rover on the surface of Mars.
ESA’s governing council has told Director General Josef Aschbacher to look for alternative options, but the mission will be overhauled after Russia’s exclusion.
The earliest launch date would be 2026 “and even that looks very challenging, technically and financially,” Aschbacher said. The next possibility, when Earth and Mars will be in proper planetary alignment, is in 2028.The ExoMars project would launch on a Russian Proton rocket and then use a Russian landing mechanism to place its Rosalind Franklin rover on the surface of Mars © AP
In addition, all launches of Russian Soyuz rockets from the European spaceport in French Guiana have been put on indefinite hold following the withdrawal of engineers by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Four ESA missions have been affected: two Galileo navigation satellites this year, the Euclid space telescope and EarthCare climate satellite in 2023.
Aschbacher is also leading a search for alternative launchers that could replace Soyuz. Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket should make its maiden flight this year, but he added: “I don’t rule out having to look at launchers other than European ones.”
At the International Space Station, currently staffed by four Americans, two Russians and a German, astronauts and cosmonauts will continue to work together as usual, Aschbacher said.
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