It is “very unlikely” that the European rover will launch to Mars in 2022


(CNN) — Europe’s first planetary rover is highly unlikely to launch in 2022, the European Space Agency said on Monday (ESA, for its acronym in English), given the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the sanctions imposed on the country as a result.

The ExoMars Rover, a collaboration between ESA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, was on track to leave for Mars in September this year, but ESA said “the broader context” made it unlikely. A formal decision would be made after reviewing all options, the agency added.

“We are fully implementing the sanctions imposed on Russia by our member states,” ESA said in the statement. “We are assessing the consequences of each of our ongoing programs carried out in cooperation with the Russian state space agency Roscosmos and aligning our decisions with the decisions of our Member States in close coordination with industrial and international partners (particularly with NASA on the International Space Station).”

Launch windows are delicate and timely for missions heading to Mars from Earth. The rover, known as ExoMars and Rosalind Franklin after the English chemist and DNA pioneer, was initially scheduled to launch in July 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ESA also canceled a live question-and-answer session with Matthias Maurer, an ESA astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station. In addition to Maurer, there are currently four NASA astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts living and working aboard the orbiting outpost.

NASA said on Monday there was no sign Russia would withdraw its support for the International Space Station as a result of US sanctions, despite Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin raising that possibility last week.

“We are not receiving any indication at the working level that our counterparts are not committed to the ongoing operation on the International Space Station. We as a team are operating as we were three weeks ago,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the International Space Station. NASA for space operations.

“Our teams, our flight controllers, are still talking together… We’re still training together. We’re still working together. Obviously. We understand where the global situation is. But as a joint team, these teams are operating together.”

In response to a question about NASA’s backup plans for the space station in case Russia pulls out, he said aerospace and defense company Northrup Grumman had offered a revival capability.

“And, you know, our people at SpaceX are looking at whether we can have additional capacity,” he said.

Impact on the International Space Station

The International Space Station is photographed from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor during a flight around the orbiting laboratory following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8, 2021.

Rogozin had said Thursday that US sanctions have the potential to “destroy our cooperation” on the International Space Station.

The ISS, which is a collaboration between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and ESA, is divided into two sections: the Russian orbital segment and the American orbital segment.

The US segment provides power, while the Russian side provides the propulsion that keeps the ISS afloat.

“The Russian segment cannot function without the electricity on the US side, and the US side cannot function without the propulsion systems that are on the Russian side,” former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman told CNN last week.

“You can’t do an amicable divorce,” Reisman said. “You can’t do a conscious decoupling.”

CNN’s Kristin Fisher contributed to this report.



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