The European-Russian ExoMars mission is “very unlikely” to continue in September, the European space agency warns. All options are still being explored, but the sanctions Europe has imposed on Russia seem too severe to allow the mission to go ahead.
The space agency is not definitively ruling out a possible launch at a later date with the wording ‘very unlikely’. In any case, because of the position of Mars in relation to Earth, it seems that the mission will be delayed for at least two years. The ExoMars rover should initially go into space in September, when a launch is possible for 12 days. “The sanctions and the broader context” are the cause of the uncertainty, according to ESA. “ESA’s Secretary General is reviewing all options and will make a formal decision on progress by ESA member states at a later date,” the space agency said.
ESA says it follows the line of the agency’s 22 member states with the decision. The agency also says it will implement the sanctions that member states are imposing on Russia, insofar as they relate to the space industry. The agency says it is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.
The delay is due to the harsh sanctions Western countries imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. It was already clear that this would affect the space industry; The White House previously warned about this. The Russian space agency Roscosmos also took out all his staff already gone at the European launch site Kourou in French Guiana.
Until now, it was not known how the sanctions would affect future space missions. ExoMars is now the first example of this. That mission consists of a Russian lander and a European rover; the space equipment would be delivered via a Russian Proton rocket.