ESA Sends Rosalind Franklin to Mars Surface in September 2022

Rosalind Franklin’s rover to be launched to the surface of Mars. Image: ESA

ANTRACELLA — The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed the launch schedule for the ExoMars mission in September 2022. This schedule is a revision of the failed launch in 2020 due to parachute problems and the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, January 18, ESA explained preparations for a mission that would land a rover named Rosalind Franklin on the surface of Mars. The launch was carried out on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan between September 20 and October 1, 2022. The probe and surface platform Kazachok, provided by Roscosmos, will land in Mars’ Oxia Planum region in June 2023.

The ExoMars mission was originally scheduled to launch in mid-2020. However, problems with a parachute that would slow the spacecraft in the Martian atmosphere, as well as complications caused by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, led ESA to postpone the launch to March 2020.

ESA claims to have solved the parachute problem after some assistance from NASA. In December, the ESA conducted a parachute altitude test in Oregon. They managed to remove two different versions of the landing parachutes which were larger, with a diameter of 35 meters.

Meanwhile, the rover, named Rosalind Franklin, has completed a series of tests. ESA confirmed the probe is ready to work on Mars.

“The rover is ready, and together with the recent successful drop test for the parachute, we believe it will be in time for the September launch date,” said Pietro Baglioni, ESA ExoMars rover team leader. Space.com on Friday, January 21, 2022.

At a press conference on the same day, the Director General of ESA, Josef Aschbacher also expressed his confidence about the ExoMars mission. “It’s going really well,” he said. “We are on a good track with a small positive launch schedule margin.”

The preparations, officials said, included fixing the electronics on the spacecraft’s descent module. “It controls the main braking engine for the final landing on the red planet’s surface, and it’s one of the elements causing the launch delay in 2020,” said David Parker, director of human and robotic space exploration at ESA.

Political issues

One factor that could complicate the planned launch is the escalating geopolitical tension between Russia and the West. It is feared that Russia is preparing to attack Ukraine. Aschbacher hopes it will not affect cooperation with Russia in space, including the launch of ExoMars.

“What happens politically on the ground will not change the launch plan,” he said.

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