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ExoMars Rosalind Franklin: Rover mission delayed until 2022

Europe and Russia have decided to postpone their Mars rover mission. The ExoMars "Rosalind Franklin" vehicle was due to launch to the Red Planet in July/August but engineers aren't able to get the vehicle ready in time. Because an Earth-Mars journey is only attempted when the planets are favourably aligned, the robot's next opportunity won't occur until 2022.

All the hardware is built, but there remains an intimidating list of outstanding checks that must be completed before the mission can be declared flight-ready. Chief among the obstacles in the timeline are some underperforming electronics boxes in the Russian descent and lander mechanisms that would put the rover safely on the ground; and also the overall flight software from Europe. Full testing required to achieve confidence in these items necessarily pushes the project beyond July/August.

Matters have been further complicated in recent days by the international coronavirus crisis which has started to disrupt the engineering effort.
Launching in late 2022 means the rover will touch down in 2023, given the cruise time to the Red Planet.

Rosalind Franklin has been built to try to detect life, past or present, on the Red Planet. Because of this, the rover and its instruments have been prepared to incredibly stringent levels of cleanliness. This status must now be maintained over the coming two years of storage.
First envisaged as a small technology demonstration mission, the robot vehicle was formally approved by European nations back in 2005, with a launch first pencilled in for 2011. Then, as ambitions grew and the design was beefed up, the start date was put back. At first, it was shifted to 2013, but further problems saw slippage to 2016, and then again to 2018. For much of its history, the rover project, codenamed ExoMars, has had to fumble through with budgets that were insufficient to maintain the promised timelines.
ExoMars is an important, ambitious mission, with the UK-built Rosalind Franklin rover set to help us understand the past environment of Mars and search for evidence of life. To be successful, the mission must be carried out within an acceptable level of risk.
I understand that the chances are probably slim but imagine if in July/August when the rover was originally intended on landing, there is an evidence of life on the planet where the rover was supposed to land. Now that the rovers launch is delayed we may have potentially lost that opportunity. How much we don't know about things that surround our world is astonishing, it makes me think of a time where we have technologically advanced enough to significantly make an impact on our knowledge of the universe and the mysteries that lie deep within the vast void of space.

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