The European Space Agency Has Halted Its Mars Mission With Russia

The European Space Agency has halted its €1 billion ExoMars mission, a joint project with Russia, scheduled to launch in September. The ESA member nations voted on Thursday to cancel the launch due to Russia’s Ukraine crisis.

“The decision was made that this launch cannot happen, given the current circumstances and especially the sanctions that are imposed by our member states,” said agency director-general Josef Aschbacher. “This makes it practically impossible, but also politically impossible to have a launch of [the rover] in September.”

ExoMars 2022 - eoPortal Directory

Rosalind Franklin, the Mars rover, was built in the United Kingdom for a scheduled launch on a Russian rocket. A German-built spaceship would have carried it to Mars, where it would have been steered to the surface by a Russian lander. Instead, the rover will be kept in storage for the time being.

The decision is a big setback for Europe’s space program. The next available launch window, based on Earth-Mars alignment, will be in 2024, but technical and political obstacles may take longer to overcome.

A working prototype. The rover, named Rosalind Franklin, was assembled in the UK for a planned launch aboard a Russian rocket.

The ESA has conducted a feasibility study to explore how to get ExoMars off the ground without Roscosmos’ help. One possibility is to work with NASA.

In addition, ESA reported on Thursday that five Soyuz-launched satellite missions had been canceled due to Roscosmos’ decision to withdraw its personnel from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

A Russian Soyuz rocket provided a ride share to space for more than 70  satellites this morning - The Verge

According to Aschbacher, the situation aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which is now staffed by four Americans, two Russians, and one German ESA astronaut, has remained stable.

“Astronauts are ostensibly working. They’re doing fine and carrying out their operations as planned,” he said.

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