The European Space Agency (ESA) Council will meet March 16-17, 2022 in Paris in its 306th session. On the agenda: “implications of the current geopolitical situation on ESA’s activities.”

Last month, ESA stated: “We deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine. We are giving absolute priority to taking proper decisions, not only for the sake of our workforce involved in the programs, but in full respect of our European values, which have always fundamentally shaped our approach to international cooperation.”

Furthermore, ESA explained that they were fully implementing sanctions imposed on Russia by the organization’s Member States.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are Associate Members.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover and Russia’s stationary surface platform in background.
ESA/ATG medialab

Major question mark

“We are assessing the consequences on each of our ongoing programs conducted in cooperation with the Russian state space agency, Roscosmos” as well as with NASA on the International Space Station.

“Regarding the Soyuz launch campaign from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, we take note of the Roscosmos decision to withdraw its workforce from Kourou. We will consequently assess for each European institutional payload under our responsibility the appropriate launch service based notably on launch systems currently in operation and the upcoming Vega-C and Ariane-6 launchers.”

A major question mark is going ahead with the joint ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars program. Given the sanctions and the wider context, ESA stated that making a launch in 2022 was “very unlikely.”

ExoMars 2022 was slated for a September 20 departure (the opening of a 12-day launch window), to lift off from Baikonour atop a Russian Proton booster. 

And there is the prospect of other programmatic shoes to drop.

Bernard Foing, space scientist and diplomat. Credit: ESA/Philippe Sebirot

Joint experiments

Inside Outer Space reached out to Bernard Foing, Director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG). He is a retired ESA project scientist for the SMART-1 — the first European mission to the Moon (2003-2006) — and is vice-chair of the influential Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) planetary commission, and exploration panel.

“As a world citizen I am deeply troubled by the Russian/Ukraine conflict, with its casualties, losses and threats for all,” Foing said. “I am also personally affected as I have Ukrainian friends and colleagues from joint collaborations that involved Ukrainian, European and Russian researchers. We had vibrant memories of collaborations, and visits to Kiev (also spelled Kyiv) observatory, Evpatoria, Yalta. We even had joint experiments, including the first growth of flowers (“Moon marigolds”) from lunar soil conducted with Academy of Sciences in 2005.

ESA deplores the consequences of the war in Ukraine, Foing said, and that its decisions take into account not only its workforce but European values.

Factory floor integration of science instruments on Russia’s Luna-25 Moon lander.
Credit: Roscosmos

Analyzing options

As for the ExoMars rover, Foing added, ESA has said that the economic sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia and the wider context of the war have made a 2022 launch unlikely. ESA is analyzing options for the way forward.

“The war has already affected other projects,” Foing said. “The withdrawal of Russian Soyuz rocket from Kourou is affecting the launch of Galileo navigation satellites. However the EU commission indicated that a solution will be found in due time to guarantee autonomous access to space for their assets.”

As for ESA working with Russia on that country’s series of Luna missions, “one cannot assess yet how the current conflict would affect the upcoming lunar polar lander missions Luna-25, due for launch in July,  and Luna-27 planned in 2025 with ESA contributions of a drill and instruments,” Foing said.

What impact will Russian military aggression against Ukraine have on the International Space Station? Credit: NASA

Foing also said that there are possible consequences on the operations of International Space Station, a multi-nation enterprise that has been a unique platform for peaceful collaboration, technology, science, education and public outreach.

Peace bridge

“Having worked as a space scientist and diplomat at ESA for more than 30 years, I believe “we should not waste the efforts of scientists, engineers, technicians, taxpayers money and public support from Europe, Russia  and all countries involved in peaceful space science and exploration joint projects.” Foing said.

Rather, Foing continued, we should use space science as a “peace bridge” between countries with dialogue even in times of geopolitical conflict, as Apollo-Soyuz did in 1975.”

Apollo-Soyuz link-up: On July 17, 1975 two Cold War-rivals met in space.
Credit: NASA

Space science collaboration generates knowledge and advanced technologies, inspiring public and young generations, Foing said, underscoring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as “developing creative minds for the benefits of humanity and for protecting our Earth.”

Lastly, Foing said that a statement has been released, “Make Space, Not War,” from the Space Renaissance Initiative (SRI), for which he has served as elected president since July 2021.

For more information on SDG 18 – SPACE FOR ALL, go to:

For more information on the Space Renaissance Initiative (SRI), go to:

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