The global impact of coronavirus has now affected mankind’s space ambitions, after it was announced that a joint program between Russia and the European Space Agency to send a probe to Mars has been postponed.
The ExoMars mission, which was designed to determine if there had ever been life on the Red Planet, was set to launch this summer.
Preparations for the ambitious project have been put on hold, however — due at least in part to the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which already has been dubbed a pandemic.
The launch has now been pushed back to 2022. According to the European and Russian space agencies, the COVID-19 epidemic has “compromised” the final phase of the project.
ESA and @roscosmos are postponing the launch of the second #ExoMars mission in order to complete all tests necessary for mission success. The new schedule foresees a launch between August and October 2022 👉 https://t.co/so9CrcAc8a pic.twitter.com/o1y5OPRoJ6
— ESA (@esa) March 12, 2020
Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin said that the decision to postpone the launch was “difficult” but necessary.
The coronavirus has created “an epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries,” he explained.
The virus, which began in Wuhan, China, more than two months ago, has begun to paralyze much of Europe.
In Italy, the hardest hit nation in the Europe, government has ordered all non-essential businesses and services to suspend operations, essentially imposing a country-wide lock-down.
While the ExoMars mission faces delays, a far more well-known joint space project – the International Space Station (ISS) – has yet to succumb to coronavirus.
The station is the result of cooperation between Roscosmos, ESA, NASA, and the Japanese and Canadian space agencies. Yet, there are no signs that any downgrade of operations is to happen in the near future.