European Space Agency suspends joint Mars rover mission with Russia

U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, centre, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, left, and Mikhail Korniyenko, crew member of the mission to the International Space Station, ISS, walk to inspect their space suits prior the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

The European Space Agency (ESA) has indefinitely suspended a joint ExoMars mission with Russia due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the organization announced on Thursday.

ESA member states voted at a ruling council meeting in Paris to cancel the €1 billion project that would have seen a robotic rover sent to Mars in a planned launch in September.

In a statement, the agency said it “deeply deplores the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine.

“While recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States,” the statement added.

The agency’s Director General Josef Aschbacher explained that due to ongoing sanctions, its continued collaboration with Russian-state space agency Roscomos is “practically impossible.”

The organization affirmed that projects on the International Space Station (ISS) are continuing to operate “nominally,” and stated that while the continuance of operations is desired, its main goal is maintaining the safety of the ISS crew.

“Astronauts are working nominally,” Aschbacher revealed. “They are doing well and doing their operations as planned,” he said.

The statement explained that an extraordinary session of the ESA council will be called in the coming weeks to discuss how to proceed with the suspended operations.

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