The long-awaited mission that might remodel our understanding of Mars

Surface of Mars

Enlarge (credit score: NASA/JPL/Cal Tech)

March 17, 2022, was a tough day for Jorge Vago. A planetary physicist, Vago heads science for a part of the European House Company’s ExoMars program. His crew was mere months from launching Europe’s first Mars rover—a purpose that they had been working towards for almost 20 years. However on that day, ESA suspended ties with Russia’s house company over the invasion of Ukraine. The launch had been deliberate for Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is leased to Russia.

“They instructed us we needed to name the entire thing off,” Vago says. “We had been all grieving.”

It was a painful setback for the beleaguered Rosalind Franklin rover, initially authorised in 2005. Funds woes, associate switches, technical points and the COVID-19 pandemic had all, in flip, brought about earlier delays. And now, a warfare. “I’ve spent most of my profession attempting to get this factor off the bottom,” Vago says. Complicating issues additional, the mission included a Russian-made lander and devices, which the member states of ESA would want funding to interchange. They thought-about many choices, together with merely placing the unused rover in a museum. However then, in November, got here a lifeline, when European analysis ministers pledged 360 million euros to cowl mission bills, together with changing Russian elements.

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