European Space Agency cited software problems with the spacecraft as a reason for the delay
The European Space Agency (ESA) and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos State Corp have delayed the launch of their second ExoMars mission by two years to 2022.
The mission aims to determine if there is any life on Mars and to better understand the history of water on the planet.
In a press release, ESA cited software problems with the spacecraft that would carry the rover as well as the main parachute testing as reasons for the delay. According to journal Nature, space agencies also cited coronavirus pandemic as a reason for the same.
According to an ESA press note:
Due to consideration of the recommendations provided by European and Russian inspectors general, ExoMars experts have concluded that tests necessary to make all components of the spacecraft fit for the Mars adventure need more time to complete.
The rover, Rosalind Franklin, was expected to take off to Mars in July 2020 and arrive at the planet’s surface in March 2021. It includes a drill to access the sub-surface of Mars.
According to ESA press note, Director-General Jan Wörner on March 12 said: “Although we are really close to launch readiness, we cannot cut corners. We have together accepted the advice that launching this year would mean sacrificing essential remaining tests.”
He added: “This is a tough decision but I’m sure it’s the right one.”
According to Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin, the need to maximise robustness of all ExoMars systems prompted the decision.
“We have made a difficult but weighed decision to postpone the launch. It is driven primarily force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe. I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified,” he added.
The Rosalind Franklin rover is the second part of the two space agencies’ ExoMars mission. The first part of the mission — the Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft — was launched successfully in 2016.
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