The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the suspension of the deployment of the robot Rosalind Franklin, of the ExoMars missionto Mars due to the impossibility of maintaining cooperation with the Russian counterpart Roscosmos, which worked on the mission, because of the war in Ukraine.
The decision, announced in a press release, was taken unanimously by the ESA Council, which met to assess the ExoMars robotic mission in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Just two weeks ago, the ESA had admitted as “very unlikely” the sending of the robot in 2022, which was to be launched on Mars, after successive delays, in September, on a mission in which Roscosmos was a partner.
The ESA Council “recognized the current impossibility of continuing cooperation with Roscosmos” on the ExoMars mission and instructed Director General Josef Aschbacher to “take appropriate measures to suspend activities” with the Russian space agency.
Member states have authorized the ESA leader to launch a study “to better define the options available” to proceed with ExoMars. The robot is named after the British chemist (1920-1958) responsible for most of the research that led to the discovery of the structure of DNA.
ESA says scheduled satellite launches with Russian Soyuz rockets have also been suspended, following Roscosmos’ decision to withdraw its personnel from the European space base in Kourou, French Guiana. The agency is evaluating possible alternatives for cargo vehicles, including revising the flight plan for Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket, which is scheduled to launch for the first time this year.
The agency specifies that it maintains the program of missions on the International Space Station, the “home” of astronauts in Earth orbit that it built in partnership with its Russian, Japanese, North American and Canadian counterparts. On March 4, following the conflict, Roscosmos announced that it would end joint scientific experiments with Germany on the station.
“The main objective is to continue the safe operations of the International Space Station, including maintaining the safety of the crew”, justifies the ESA in the press release, reiterating that “it is fully compliant with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States”. “, despite acknowledging its impact on “scientific space exploration”.
After the European counterpart suspended the joint mission to Mars, Roscosmos indicated that it would send its own robotic mission to the planet. Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said the scientific expedition to Mars would go “by itself”, accusing “European friends” of submission to the United States.
“The work of thousands of specialists is erased by a paper signed by some European bureaucrat. It’s a pity,” criticized Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin. Roscosmos today accused the ESA of putting its anti-Russian stance ahead of humanity’s common goals of studying the Universe and searching for biological or geological evidence of life on Mars.
ESA reiterated that it “is fully in agreement with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states”, although it recognizes its impact on “scientific space exploration”.