Franklin Rover’s Journey to Mars Delayed By Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Franklin Rover’s Journey to Mars Delayed By Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The Rosalind Franklin rover, a joint project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, is not expected to launch this year. ESA announced the situation on February 28. Economic and political sanctions have been applied in several areas as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including work done by ESA. ESA detailed the penalties’ repercussions in a statement released following a meeting of the agency’s 22 member nations.

“We are completely executing our Member States’ sanctions against Russia. “We are assessing the implications for each of our ongoing programs, which are carried out in collaboration with the Russian state space agency Roscosmos, and we are aligning our decisions to the decisions of our Member States in close coordination with industrial and international partners (in particular, NASA on the International Space Station),” according to the ESA statement. “In terms of the ExoMars program’s future, the sanctions and broader backdrop make a launch in 2022 extremely doubtful.” The Director General of the European Space Agency will examine all possibilities and provide a formal decision for ESA Member States on how to proceed.”

ExoMars, the second-largest partnership between ESA and Roscosmos after the International Space Station, includes the Franklin rover (ISS). Following the penalties, Roscomos’ head, Dmitry Rogozin, threatened to shut down the ISS last week. Roscosmos has already canceled the Soyuz launch campaign and withdrawn its staff from the European spaceport at Kourou in French Guyana. The rover was intended to launch on a Russian Proton-M rocket from Baikonur on September 20. It was also scheduled to employ a Russian-designed lander dubbed Kazachok, therefore Russian cooperation was crucial to the mission’s prompt launch.

The rover is named after Rosalind Franklin, an English chemist whose groundbreaking x-ray studies were important in the discovery of DNA. The Franklin rover’s purpose is to search for signs of life on Mars. The greatest method to reach Mars is to arrive at the proper time. There are precise launch windows that allow sending something to Mars with the least amount of energy. This is why, in July 2020, China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates all launched Mars expeditions. 

The launch of the Franklin Rover was planned to happen at that time, but it was postponed. It will have to wait two years if it is not released in September. Mars launch windows recur every 780 days, therefore the next feasible opportunity for launching the rover to the Red Planet will be late fall in 2024.