- European Union sanctions against Russia will likely delay launch of the ExoMars mission.
- The European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos are responsible for key components of the mission.
- A delay this summer could mean a two year wait for the next opportunity.
The European Space Agency said that a planned Russia-Europe mission to Mars scheduled for this summer is unlikely to proceed as a result of sanctions imposed by Western governments following the invasion of Ukraine.
European Union sanctions against Russia will likely delay the ExoMars mission, with the ESA saying in a statement that it is abiding by the measures imposed against Russia that target everything from finance to technology.
“We deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine,” the ESA said.
“Regarding the ExoMars programme continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely,” it said. “ESA’s Director General will analyse all the options and prepare a formal decision on the way forward by ESA Member States.”
ESA told Insider that it could not comment further beyond what it said in its statement.
The head of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, responded to the announcement, writing in Russian on his Twitter and Telegram channels: “The European Space Agency, to spite the Russian grandmother, decided to freeze off her ears.”
The ExoMars mission involves the launch of a robotic rover called Rosalind Franklin to explore the surface of Mars, a program the ESA had been working on alongside Roscosmos for the last 10 years, The Verge reported. The first phase of the mission began in 2016, when the team launched a spacecraft and test lander. The spacecraft has since been orbiting Mars, but the test lander crashed.
ESA and Roscosmos are responsible for key components of the current Rosalind Franklin rover mission, according to The Verge. The rover, designed to dig into Mars’ surface to test for signs of life, was built by the ESA, while Russia has provided both the landing device and the rocket that will launch the mission.
ESA’s announcement follows Russia’s recent decision, in response to EU sanctions, to suspend the launches of its Soyuz rocket from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, and withdraw its staff there. Russia is also pulling out from its partnership with NASA on a joint mission to Venus.
A delay to the ExoMars launch this summer could mean a considerable wait for the next opportunity. Missions to Mars are able to take place about once every two years, when conditions allow for craft to reach the Red Planet efficiently from Earth, the ESA says on its website.