Friday, March 1, 2024
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No European Mars mission this year, due to war in Ukraine

PARIS (AP) – Because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is going to have to wait at least several more years and may need NASA’s help before its first planned Mars rover can drill into the planet’s dusty surface, seeking signs of whether it ever hosted life.

The European Space Agency said on Thursday that it will no longer attempt to send the ExoMars rover aloft this year on a Russian rocket and may now have to strip out the mission’s many Russian components.

A launch with Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, is now “practically impossible but also politically impossible”, the agency’s director Josef Aschbacher said. “This year, the launch is gone.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Aschbacher said the space agency will now sift “bit by bit and component by component” through the mission, to determine how much time is needed “to really do it without the Russians”. Alternatives might be sourced from Europe and with the help of NASA, he said.

Because of the Russian invasion, “we need to untangle all this cooperation which we had, and this is a very complex process, a painful one I can also tell you, but also a very complex one, and we have to do it”, he said.

He described the breakdown of co-operation as “a wake up call” for Europe to further develop its own space technologies.