Posted on July 25, 2022
On 14 July the European Space Agency (ESA) marked a definitive end to its cooperation with Moscow. This is another foolish political decision on science, in an area where politics should not interfere.
Cooperation between ESA and Russia had already been suspended since Russia entered the war against Ukraine. This new decision, based on the continuation of the war in Ukraine, greatly upsets Russia, but it is a very bad blow for European activities in space.
It should be recalled that ESA will launch its robotic Mars exploration mission “Exomers” with a Russian rocket in the July 2020 launch window. This mission, planned since 2000, was listed as a major mission in 2005. ESA’s Aurora Exploration Program. It was indeed very important, both scientifically (drilling deep into the ground to access the non-irradiated zone and possibly signs of life) and technologically (the operation of a rover on the surface, which would have been new to ESA). Due to uncertainty about the ability of parachutes to ensure a landing on Mars, and especially the Covid pandemic, it was postponed to the September 2022 window. NB: I remind you that a rocket launch to Mars cannot happen only every 26 months. Planets move at different speeds in different orbits.
In retaliation, Russia banned ESA from using the new “ERA” robotic arm that it had delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) and which could be used for maintenance on the European modules.
At the same time, on July 15, NASA and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) decided to continue cooperation in transporting crew and equipment to and from the ISS.
Europeans are shooting themselves in the foot again, for no reason
I think that originally, in 2008, ESA planned (contracted) to work with NASA for this mission but in 2011, citing the additional cost of the Webb Telescope, NASA withdrew. i write pretend Because NASA has since completed and launched many other missions besides the completion and launch of the Webb Telescope, and it really didn’t want to find itself helping the Europeans.
ESA became another partner in 2012. The rationale was to spread the cost. But one might think that choosing Russia as a partner to launch and land the rover was too serious when the country showed a technological decline in the previous year with the failure of the interplanetary injection of their Phobes-Grant mission to Mars. . The failure came after Beagle 2 launched on land in 2003 and Schiaparelli missed the landing in 2016. One would really think that all this time ESA could not have tried to perform the launches and land with him himself. Ariane 6. It can’t be bad.
But since the Russian partner was finally chosen, why not continue when nothing was missing for the start?! The consequences are very serious. Rover (named after a British biochemist named Rosalind Franklin, perhaps in the feminist fashion of the era) is ready. He was set to leave in July 2020 when he should have left in May 2018. So he won’t be leaving until September 2022.
We now have to find a new partner and if necessary it can only be NASA. Because the configuration of the launcher has changed and the lander is different, all kinds of attachments or interfaces between the rover and its carrier have to be changed, and we are now only considering a launch in 2028. As a result, costs continue and will increase because not only will the mission have to adapt to this new launcher, but negotiations will be needed with NASA, who will certainly want to take advantage of this situation, for example by requesting space for instruments that it could not send before. All this time requires paying the teams to deal with the mission and maintain the rover, not counting the teams that have to deal with the rover once it’s launched on Mars. We started at 690 million in 2006, we were 1.2 billion in 2012 and no doubt we will be much more in 2028.
All this time, ESA, so mainly Europe, spent a lot of money, busy scientists and engineers with nothing. Ultimately, it unjustifiably deprives the world scientific community, and first and foremost itself, of an extraordinary scientific instrument. It’s a punishment that kids can apply to little friends they don’t like. I mean the thinking is extremely limited as leading to anti-Russian economic sanctions. Those who make their decisions are the first to suffer. And the winner is the United States, which conducts its space policy as it sees fit.
From start to finish, this is an organization of doodles where money doesn’t matter.