Published: Sat, March 14, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

ExoMars-2020 mission delayed due to coronavirus

ExoMars-2020 mission delayed due to coronavirus

In a Thursday statement, Dmitry Rogozin - director general of Roscosmos Space Corporation, the Russian group teaming up with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the ExoMars Mission - said that they had "made a hard but well-weighted decision to postpone the launch", which was set for this summer, "to 2022".

"Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said the decision to delay was primarily made due to the need to test the spacecraft's systems, but added that the COVID-19 situation in Europe has "left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries".

"The main reason for this postponement is the uncertainty about some software and hardware and the need to carry out more tests", the agency said.

The ExoMars mission was due to leave for the Red Planet on a Russian rocket in July or August this year - carrying the British built Rosalind Franklin rover.

The virus originated in China's central Wuhan city last December, and has since spread to at least 117 countries. I am sure that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to guarantee the success of the mission will be justified and will undoubtedly bring exclusively positive results for the implementation of the mission.

"But of course now, in this situation, we see that the coronavirus has also an impact on the preparation, because people from different places of industry in Russian Federation, in Italy and France can not move easily as in the past, so therefore there is also an impact".

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"We have made a hard but well-weighted decision to postpone the launch to 2022", Rogozin said in a statement. "More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars". All 13 instruments have been installed on the Kazachok lander, and the Rosalind Franklin rover's nine scientific instruments are in the final stages of thermal and vacuum testing.

The postponement is another setback for the ExoMars program after the 2016 launch of an orbiter and a test lander.

The overhauled plan sees a dispatch among August and October of 2022, with the arrival to come the year following.

Meanwhile, the descent module and landing platform have been undergoing environmental testing in Cannes, France, to confirm the spacecraft is ready to endure the harsh conditions of space on its journey to Mars.

Launch windows are delicate and timely for missions heading to Mars from Earth. Through a collaborative effort between the ESA and Roscosmos, the mission was created to track signs of alien life on the Red Planet.

But getting all that to the surface requires a complicated landing system, and the ExoMars mission would use two sets of parachutes.

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