ESA is Looking for Alternatives to Carry On with the Mars Mission without Russia26th May 2022
Mars mission, originally scheduled for 2018, is delayed once again — this time because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This time, the UK-built ExoMars rover was scheduled to launch on a Russian rocket in September, but Western space sanctions against Russian open military aggression have put the event on hold once again. Right now, it looks like the Mars mission will remain grounded until 2026 at the very best — unless ESA quickly comes up with an alternative.
ESA Representatives on Mars Mission Challenges
According to the ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker, the agency is looking for alternative ways to continue with the Mars mission. ESA is potentially interested in forming a partnership with NASA or may even try to reach Mars all on its own.
Still, even if ESA’s collaboration with NASA proves fruitful on the Mars mission, there will still be gaps left to fill after the exclusion of Russia and its Soyuz rockets from international space missions. Eventually, those will be addressed, but right now, it is difficult to say when exactly the gaps will be filled.
One possible solution to carry on with the ExoMars mission is to create a new, more powerful version of the Ariane rocket for launching the rover to Mars. According to Mr Parker, ESA has the most building blocks necessary to re-create the technologies used on previous Mars missions. But, before any decisions are taken, the Roslin Franklin rover patiently awaits in ESA storage facilities.
Will ESA Collaborate with Roscosmos Again?
Even though ESA does not fully exclude the possibility of working with Russia once the peace in Ukraine is restored, Mr Parker believes that the latest setback has highlighted the dangers of collaborating with other agencies, particularly government-controlled ones. At the same time, ESA collaborates with China — sadly not on the latest Mars mission, so its future remains unknown as of now.