The European Space Agency and its Russian partner, Roscosmos, announced on Thursday (12 March) that a planned mission to Mars will be postponed, blaming it on a mixture of technical gremlins and the coronavirus outbreak.
ExoMars 2020 was meant to launch in July but will now have to wait two years for another shot at reaching the Red Planet, after failed parachute tests proved fatal for the mission’s launch prospects.
ESA and Roscosmos also revealed that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak meant that experts were unable to do their jobs as planned as there was “no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries”.
“We want to make certain that we are 100% sure for a successful mission. We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error. More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.
The joint European-Russian mission hopes to land a rover on the Martian surface and probe whether there ever was life on the planet.
According to the mission log, “ExoMars will be the first mission to search for signs of life at depths up to two metres below the Martian surface, where biological signatures of life may be uniquely well preserved.”
Reafd more: euractiv