ESA has been working on this project for a very long time in order to bring the rover to Mars itself for the first time. But it looks like ExoMars is damned. In 2018, problems with a complex parachute system prevented the originally planned launch. Then, in 2020, the launch was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dashed all hopes of launching the rover in 2022. For the research team, the situation is especially appalling. “I couldn’t talk about this mission for weeks without crying,” says Valerie Ciarletti of the Laboratory for Atmospheric, Environment and Space Meteorology (LATMOS) in France. Ciarletti leads the Underground Radar Working Group for the rover.
Work on the project lasted more than 20 years, and now the fully assembled rover is waiting at a facility in Turin. It seems increasingly unlikely that ExoMars will ever take off. It is not certain whether the European Space Agency will even want to make a fourth launch attempt or whether the mission will simply be aborted. The project can still be saved, but at what cost?
“Subtly charming coffee scholar. General zombie junkie. Introvert. Alcohol nerd. Travel lover. Twitter specialist. Freelance student.”