Coronavirus Causes Europe and Russia to Delay ExoMars Mission Until 2022

"...the final phase of ExoMars activities are compromised by the general aggravation of the epidemiological situation in European countries."

ESA and Roscosmos delay the launch of the ExoMars mission due to the general aggravation of the Coronavirus epidemiological crisis.

The Coronavirus—an infectious disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans—has officially become the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.

The terrifying disease has spread on all continents around the globe except for Antarctica.

Spread from one person to others via respiratory droplets, often produced during coughing, COVID-19 as it is officially known—has caused countries to close borders, with quarantines in place around the globe.

Now, it seems that the novel coronavirus is causing problems for science as well. In a recent report, ESA and Roscosmos have decided to postpone the launch of the second ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet from this summer until 2022.

This delay of the ExoMars mission is partly due to the coronavirus.

Coronavirus: A microscopic image of SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A microscopic image of the

As part of a meeting held on March 12 in Moscow, Jan Wörner and Dmitry Rogozin from the European Space Agency and Roscosmos respectively, agreed that more tests are needed for the spacecraft with the final hardware and software.

Furthermore, the parties had to recognize that “the final phase of ExoMars activities is compromised by the general worsening of the epidemiological situation in European countries.”

The joint ESA-Roscosmos project team evaluated all activities necessary for a launch authorization to analyze risks and schedule.

“We have made a difficult but well-weighted decision to postpone the launch to 2022. It is driven primarily by the need to maximize the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries. I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified and will unquestionably bring solely positive results for the mission implementation,” revealed in a statement Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin.

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A basic info-graph about Mars. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

The main objective of the mission is to determine if there has ever been life on Mars and to better understand the history of water on the planet.

The ExoMars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, includes tools that allow it to study the subsurface of Mars and features a miniature life-searching laboratory which will enable the robotic rover to search Mars for traces of life as we know it.

“We want to make ourselves 100% sure of a successful mission. We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error. More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.

To date, all the flight hardware needed for the ExoMars launch has been integrated into the spacecraft.

The Kazachok landing pad is fully equipped with thirteen scientific instruments, and the Rosalind Franklin rover with its nine instruments recently passed final thermal and vacuum tests in France.

The latest ExoMars dynamic parachute extraction tests were successfully completed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the main parachutes are ready for the final two tests of altitude drop in March in Oregon, in the United States.

Let’s hope that the problems caused by the Coronavirus will soon pass so that the world and mankind can return to their normal, chaotic pace.

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