The European Mission to Mars Has Been Postponed to 2028
The ExoMars mission, organized by the European Space Agency (ESA), will be able to launch no earlier than 2028. Initially, its launch was planned for 2020, but due to a series of technical and political reasons, its start is expected to be delayed by at least five years, according to Space.com.
Josef Aschbacher, the Director General of the European Space Agency, says that the agency will soon announce a contract for the development of a landing module for the ExoMars mission. The previous contract was signed with Russia, but this partnership was terminated after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"We will conclude a new contract for the development of the landing module, which will be announced soon, within the next few months or so. Active preparations are currently underway," Aschbacher said.
The ExoMars mission has been delayed for various reasons. Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic and technical troubles with the parachute system of the Russian landing module hindered its progress. After ESA terminated its partnership with Russia in early 2022, the Mars rover "Rosalind Franklin" was left without a landing module and a rocket, as both were supposed to be provided by Russia.
In November of last year, Josef Aschbacher mentioned that NASA could contribute a braking engine, radioisotope heating units to combat Martian cold, and possibly a launch installation for the mission. The White House budget request for 2024, released in March 2023, included a mention of NASA's contribution to the ExoMars mission without specifying the allocated funds. However, ESA considers it preferable to use European rockets wherever possible.
To save the mission, ESA representatives recently approved a record budget of €16.9 billion ($17.6 billion) for three years, which includes €360 million for the ExoMars mission.
The Mars rover "Rosalind Franklin" is designed to search for signs of Martian life in the soil of the planet. It can search for them much deeper in the Martian soil than the NASA Perseverance rover, which is currently operating on Mars. It is believed that Martian microbes, if they exist, are better adapted to life in the depths of Mars, as they are protected from ultraviolet radiation and solar wind that strikes the surface of the Red Planet. The surface of Mars is nearly unprotected from these life-threatening factors due to its very weak and unstable magnetic field and a very thin atmosphere.
It is worth recalling that Elon Musk previously announced plans to send one million people to Mars by 2050, who would live in settlements under glass domes and initiate the terraforming of the planet, so that future generations can live there as on Earth.