March 5, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Europe’s 1st mission to Mars ‘could be delayed until 2028’ because of Ukraine invasion, scientist claims

A MAJOR Mars mission to find out whether life ever existed on the planet could be delayed by up to six years at best, as Europe scrambles to replace Russian parts.

The groundbreaking £844million ($1.1billion) project was set to blast off in September, but has now been dramatically halted due to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Mission was set to launch in September this year


Mission was set to launch in September this yearCredit: Getty

Experts working tirelessly on the Rosalind Franklin rover were hoping science would rise above politics and that they might be able to resume the collaboration if the war stopped soon.

But with no end in sight, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday the September launch would no longer go ahead.

The earliest next launch window is 2024, but that would only be possible if sanctions are lifted and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, can continue being involved.

Otherwise, Europe will have to go it alone, which would require member states to put in more money, or they could find a new partner like Nasa.

And because of planet alignments around the Sun, experts only get a chance to do the launch every 26 months or so for a very limited amount of time.

This means, the next possible opportunities won’t be until 2024, 2026 and 2028.

Professor Andrew Coates from University College London, who is part of the mission, told The Sun he thinks the 2026 and 2028 dates are more likely.

“It’s difficult to say at the moment but I think those later launch dates 2026 and 2028 are probably more likely than the near ones because of the difficult geopolitics at the moment,” he said.

“I think we’ll either have to do it alone or come up with another international partner to do it.

“The best possible case would be if the war stopped now and then we were able to launch in two year’s time.”

Russia was responsible for major parts including the launch, the landing system for the rover to touch down on and radioactive heater units.

Some of the final tests were carried out just three weeks ago showing that everything was ready to go.

Now experts are preparing to hold crisis talks next week to figure out how to keep the mission going.

“The whole team is very disappointed and frustrated, we’ve already had meetings to bring things forward,” Professor Coates explained.

“In the past, the end of the Cold War, science really was transcending politics in that case, but it looks like we might be heading towards another Cold War again in which case we’re going the other way unfortunately.”

But, he said everyone remains “optimistic” and are “still excited about the mission”.

Search for signs of life

The rover, named after English DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, was already delayed from its original planned date in 2020.

When it’s finally launched – and if successful – the mission will drill two meters underground for biomarkers, the furthest we’ve ever dug into Mars.

This should reveal whether life existed on the planet some 3.8billion years ago.

And it could be the first time we discover signs of life anywhere else in the universe other than Earth.

Rover is named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin


Rover is named after DNA pioneer Rosalind FranklinCredit: ESA

In other news, prudish Nasa has admitted it may have to study sex in space if humanity is ever going to make it to other planets.

An ancient mega-landslide deep under the ocean has been uncovered which could cause a massive tsunami with “just a little shake in the wrong place”.

Samsung has been accused of throttling the performance of more than 10,000 apps running on its latest smartphone.

And Nasa will let you send your name on a flight around the Moon – for FREE.

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