PARIS (AP) â€” Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe will no longer be attempting this year to send its first rover to Mars, which was to have probed whether the planet ever hosted life.
The European Space Agency confirmed Thursday that itâ€™s indefinitely suspending its ExoMars rover mission with partner Roscosmos, Russiaâ€™s state space corporation.
The ESA had previously said that the mission was â€œvery unlikelyâ€ because of Russiaâ€™s war against Ukraine.
The decision to suspend cooperation with Roscosmos was taken by ESAâ€™s ruling council, at a meeting this week in Paris.
â€œWe deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine,â€ an ESA statement said. â€œWhile recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states.â€
Because of their respective orbits around the Sun, Mars is only readily reachable from Earth every two years. The next launch window would be 2024.
The roverâ€™s primary mission was to have been determining whether Mars ever hosted life.
The ExoMars mission has already been pushed back from 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for more tests on the spacecraft.
The mission was to have blasted off on a Russian Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan in September, and had been scheduled to land on the red planet some nine months later.
Already on Mars are NASAâ€™s Perseverance rover, which landed in Feb. 2021, and Chinaâ€™s first Mars rover, Zhurong, named after the Chinese god of fire.