Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Space Agency (ESA) has suspended a joint Mars mission with Russia because of the war in Ukraine, the agency announced yesterday.
The ExoMars mission was due to take off later this year on a Russian launch vehicle and carry an ESA rover to Mars to look for signs of past life on the planet, RFI reports.
ESA stressed that sanctions imposed on Russia forced it to suspend the mission and to find alternative ways to launch five missions, including ExoMars, all of which were set to use Russian launchers.
“We deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine”, ESA noted, adding that “while recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space”, the agency “is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia.”
Roscosmos head, Dmitry Rogozin, called ESA’s decision a “very bitter” one for all space enthusiasts. This sets the project back “several years”, he said, leaving Russia to go ahead and perform the mission “without any ‘European friends’”, since “their tails [were] tucked because of American shouting.”
ExoMars, initially planned for 2020, was put on hold because of the coronavirus crisis. Planetary alignment for launching the mission comes around every two years. According to ESA, the mission can start in 2026 at the earliest, when it would hope to cooperate with NASA on it.
Collaboration on ISS
International cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) continues, with three Russian cosmonauts scheduled to start a six-and-a-half-month mission on the station this week. The ISS has been occupied continuously since the end of 2000 and is operated by a US-Russian-led partnership that includes 11 European countries, along with Canada and Japan, Reuters reports.
NASA head Bill Nelson said on Monday that the agency “continues working with all our international partners, including State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the ongoing safe operations” of the ISS. NASA pointed out that the ISS depends on US gyroscopes for maintaining attitude, Russian propulsion to maintain its orbit and US solar panels for power.