The European Space Agency has announced that its ExoMars mission has been postponed until 2022. The decision was made based on recommendations from a team tasked with determining what all still needs to be done in order to get launch authorization. Put simply, more time is needed to complete all of the tests necessary for the Mars spacecraft to be launched.
The ExoMars mission is a joint effort between the ESA and Roscosmos. The project team collectively evaluated the steps still needed for a launch authorization, according to the European team, and decided that the mission launch must be delayed from the original date in 2021 to a later date in 2022.
Named after Rosalind Franklin, the ExoMars rover has been tasked with drilling to the Martian sub-surface in order to help researchers understand the history of life on the Red Planet. The rover is equipped with what the ESA calls a mini-laboratory designed for searching for signs of life.
Additional final tests on both the software and the hardware will be necessary, agency leaders Jan Wörner and Dmitry Rogozin decided. The agency also acknowledges the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and says that this unexpected event has ‘compromised’ the mission at this time.
Roscosmos Director General Rogozin explained:
We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022. It is driven primarily by the need to maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries. I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified and will unquestionably bring solely positive results for the mission implementation.