2020 was expected to play host to a plethora of Martian missions, including the United States’ Mars 2020 rover, which was recently renamed to the Perseverance rover, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars mission, and China’s Huoxing-1 Mission for Mars.
Unfortunately, one of the aforementioned missions won’t be meeting its planned deadline. We’re speaking of course about the ExoMars rover, a mission that is currently being built amid a joint collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency known as Roscosmos in an effort to learn more about the neighboring planet Mars and its potential habitability and/or its history of habitability.
Image Credit: AirBus/ESA
The ExoMars rover missions was initially planned to launch in July 2020, but a synopsis of the current to-do list revealed that this wouldn’t be possible. In an official public statement shared by the European Space Agency just this past week, we learn that additional time is needed to thoroughly test all the working components of the ExoMars rover before it will be ready to tackle Mars’ harsh environment.
"We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022," Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin explained in the statement.
"It is driven primarily by the need to maximize 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."
As it would seem, the postponement pushes the ExoMars rover launch all the way out to August-October 2022. The two-year wait is because of a special window of opportunity involving the placement of both Earth and Mars in their respective orbits around the Sun known as the Hohmann Transfer Orbit. In this instance, Earth and Mars are somewhat close to one another in their orbits, permitting cost and fuel savings upon payload deliverance.
The primary drive behind the delayed launch is to avoid taking any chances and to ensure that the ExoMars mission delivers tangible results with as few mishaps as possible.
"We want to make ourselves 100% sure of 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,” added Jan Wörner, the European Space Agency’s Director General.
It should be interesting to see if the ExoMars mission will be ready by the new planned launch date or if it will follow a similar path of endless delays as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope currently has. Only time will tell, of course.