Image credit: ESA – S. Corvaja

Among the European Space Agency’s “Acknowledges”, “Recognizes,” “Reaffirms,” “Stresses,” “Notes” “Decides,” “Having Regard to”, “Considers that,” “Welcomes” and “Underlines” from documents written for a just-concluded Ministerial meeting:

“Looking towards Mars exploration, and with strong backing from the science community, the decision was made to build a European lander to take the Rosalind Franklin rover to the surface of Mars to explore whether life existed in the ancient lakes of the red planet,” explains the European Space Agency (ESA).

ESA’s ExoMars rover had earlier been confirmed technically ready for launch, and a fast-track study was established to determine options for bringing the mission to Mars.

Image credit: ESA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

In a post-Ministerial Level press gaggle, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, said he was “very glad to say that we have found a very positive way forward.” ExoMars would be launched in 2028, he said.

Aschbacher also noted that NASA has indicated that they may contribute to the ExoMars mission, perhaps offering a launcher and assistance on getting the robot down on Mars.

Ukraine war

The ESA-led Rosalind Franklin rover’s 2022 launch window was no longer possible following the suspension of ESA cooperation with Russia’s Roscosmos due to Russia’s war with Ukraine.

ESA Exomars robot.
Credit: ESA

ExoMars 2022 mission was a joint ESA/Roscosmos project.  In an ESA statement, due to the suspension of the 2022 launch, the Exomars elements were prepared for storage at a Thales Alenia Space site in Italy awaiting further instruction.

A fast-track industrial study was initiated to better define the available options for a way forward to implement the ExoMars rover mission in a future launch.

The Russian Kazachok platform was destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the ExoMars 2022 mission, shown here being shipped to Europe for final assembly and testing.
Credit: Roscosmos

Rebirth of the mission

At the time of that decision, David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA said: “I hope that our Member States will decide that this is not the end of ExoMars, but rather a rebirth of the mission, perhaps serving as a trigger to develop more European autonomy.”

Launch of the ExoMars 2022 mission had been slated for liftoff from Baikonur, Kazakhstan atop a Proton booster. A Roscosmos-led surface landing/science platform named “Kazachok” was to be utilized to safely plop the Rosalind Franklin rover down on the Red Planet.

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