Europe and Russia have been working toward an ambitious new Mars rover, but it seems the 2018 launch target is to tight. So the ExoMars mission will now be bumped to 2020.
Discovery reports the project will be delayed two years, until the next most opportune time to launch a Mars mission (when the planets are best aligned for success). Officials with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation met at a summit recently and determined that bumping the launch to 2020 was the best move to ensure the project is a success. The 2018 date became untenable due to delays in European and Russian industrial activities and deliveries of the scientific payload.
The ExoMars mission includes a satellite component and rover and is designed to search for life (past and present) on the Red Planet. Along with those studies, the rover will also be collecting critical data about the potential habitability of Mars. Put simply: It’ll be loaded with some of the most advanced technology ever sent into space.
“The successful implementation of both ExoMars missions will allow Russia and Europe to jointly validate cutting-edge technologies for Mars entry, descent, and landing, for the control of surface assets, to develop new engineering concepts and service systems that can be used by other Solar System exploration missions, and to carry out novel science at Mars,” the ESA said in a statement.
It’s a shame to see the project hit with a two-year delay, but considering it’d have required an ultra-tight schedule to hit 2018 (leaving no margin for error, on a project that’s needed a pretty good margin up to this point), this is certainly the best thing that could’ve happened.
Here's hoping the eventual findings will be worth the wait.