The ExoMars Rover, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, was on its way to depart for Mars in September of this year. But the European Space Agency said last month that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made that “highly unlikely”.
The decision to suspend cooperation with Roscosmos on the project was taken unanimously by the European Space Agency’s governing board, which met in Paris on Wednesday and Thursday to assess the situation caused by the war in Ukraine. The council said it had authorized a study to see if there were any “moving forward” options for the mission.
Launch windows are sensitive and timely for missions bound for Mars from Earth. The rover, known as ExoMars and Rosalind Franklin in honor of the English chemist and DNA pioneer, was scheduled to launch in July 2020, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the space agency said it deeply regrets “the human loss and the tragic consequences of the aggression against Ukraine. Recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, the European Space Agency is fully in line with the sanctions imposed by member states on Russia.”
The mission aims to search for life on Mars and investigate the history of water on the Red Planet. The rover has the ability to drill 6.5 feet (2 meters) beneath the surface of Mars, where scientists hope to find signs of life.
Despite the suspension of the Mars mission, the European Space Agency said the International Space Station program continues to operate as planned.
“The main goal is to continue the safe operations of the International Space Station, including maintaining the safety of the crew.”
There are currently four NASA cosmonauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European cosmonaut living and working aboard the outpost. Three more Russian cosmonauts are expected to arrive on Friday.
In light of the situation in Ukraine, the European Space Agency will hold an extraordinary session of the space agency’s governing council in the coming weeks, the statement said.
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