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Ukraine war: European Space Agency suspends joint Mars mission with Russia

Mars (NASA/Released)

Taking action against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Thursday it is suspending the launch of ExoMars, its joint mission to Mars with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

“Over the past two days, our Member States discussed the impact of the war in Ukraine over ESA’s space programmes. Together, we took a tough-but necessary-decision to suspend the launch of ExoMars foreseen for September, and to study options for a way forward,” Josef Aschbacher, the director general of the Paris-headquartered agency informed on Twitter.

In a statement, the ESA said, “We deeply deplore the human casualties and the tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact of scientific exploration of space, the ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.”

The ESA has 22 member states.

The space agency shared further details of its 2-day meeting, held in Paris on March 16 and 17, to discuss the current situation in Ukraine. The following decisions, it said, were adopted ‘unanimously.’

(1.) At present, it is impossible to carry out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission. Accordingly, the ESA director general was mandated to take appropriate steps to suspend the cooperation.

(2.) The ESA DG should carry out a ‘fast-track’ industrial study to better define the available options to implement the Mars mission.

The release further noted that in the coming days, an extraordinary session will be convened for the member states to submit their individual specific proposals for the way forward.

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly described the offensive as a ‘special military operation.’


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