European Space Agency Suspends ExoMars Space Mission

As feared, the Council of the European Space Agency has formally suspended cooperation with Russia on the ExoMars mission, citing “the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos”. That makes it impossible to proceed with the launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan scheduled for late September.

The central component of ExoMars is the European rover, Rosalind-Franklin, which is to drill the Martian soil to a depth of 2 meters to look for traces of life in the distant past. It was supposed to be launched aboard a Russian Proton rocket and land on the red planet in a Russian-made lander.

That decision follows the cancellation of scientific cooperation with Russia in a number of basic research centers, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s largest particle physics center, based in the formerly neutral country of Switzerland, as well as the German space agency DLR and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). From Russia, Roscosmos had already suspended on Feb. 26 its Soyuz-ST rocket launches from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou of flights commercialized by Arianespace.

Many scientists and researchers have protested against these decisions, rightfully pointing out that in addition to harming basic scientific and technological advances that are useful for the entire planet, they will not help end the war in Ukraine or contribute to world peace and understanding. One such cogent statement was initiated by a group of French academics and scientists around Jacques Sapir.

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