European mission to Mars suspended due to war in Ukraine

Science

Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe will no longer be attempting this year to send its first rover to Mars, which was to have probed whether the planet ever hosted life.

This artist’s impression shows the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover (foreground) and Russia’s science platform (background) on Mars.(ESA/ATG medialab)

Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe will no longer be attempting this year to send its first rover to Mars, which was to have probed whether the planet ever hosted life.

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

ESA had previously said that the mission was "very unlikely" because of Russia's war against 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," an ESA statement said. "While recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states."

Because of 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's primary mission was to have been determining whether Mars ever hosted life.

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

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 Feb. 2021, and China's first Mars rover, Zhurong, named after the Chinese god of fire.

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