War in Ukraine: Launch of British-built rover to find life on Mars delayed over ‘impossibility’ to work with Russia | UK News


The launch of a British-built rover to search for signs of life on Mars has been delayed because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The robotic rover Rosalind Franklin was scheduled to be launched later this year on a Proton rocket as part of the European-Russian ExoMars project.

However, the European Space Agency (ESA) said joint mission activity had been suspended due to the “current impossibility” of working together Russia.

A NASA image showing the planet Mars Image: AP

The agency’s director-general, of which the UK is part, is to conduct a “rapid industrial study” on alternative options for completing the Mars mission, ESA said in a statement.

Russia’s contribution to the mission includes the rover’s landing platform and several scientific instruments, as well as the heavy-lift rocket for the launch.

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The future of the mission is now uncertain as ESA would need to replace Russian technology and find a new launch vehicle at significant cost.

View of Mars from the Rover Curiosity.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
View of Mars from the Rover Curiosity. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The mission had already been delayed due to the COVID pandemic, but political tensions between Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and their western counterparts have since increased Ukraine Invasion.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, recently pulled Russian technicians from Europe’s launch facility in French Guiana and threatened to crash the International Space Station in the US.

Four ESA satellite launches that were supposed to take place with Russian Soyuz rockets were also postponed.

ESA said in its statement: “We deeply regret the human casualties and the tragic consequences of the aggression against Ukraine.

The big debate will be broadcast on Sky News on Monday at 9pm
The big debate will be broadcast on Sky News on Monday at 9pm

“While recognizing the implications for scientific exploration of space, ESA fully agrees with the sanctions being imposed on Russia by its member states.”

Significantly, ESA is currently collaborating with China on its first-ever mission.

A key component for a space weather satellite is scheduled to be shipped to Shanghai in the coming days.

Read more on the Ukraine conflict: Britain deploys troops and missile system at NATO’s border with Russia

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