After ExoMars at the end of last month, ESA ended its cooperation with Roscosmos on the Luna missions.
While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to wreak havoc in Eastern Europe, the international scene could at least count on aerospace to serve as a pretext for maintaining communication. But gradually, as the escalation in horror continues, even those few ties are being dissolved.
Indeed, the European Space Agency (ESA) has just announced that it is ending its cooperation with its Russian counterpart Roscosmos. A decision that directly concerns certain important missions. It starts with the Luna series missions, through which the Russian agency sends rovers to the Moon.
Indeed, the two agencies were to cooperate on the next three Luna missions. ESA had to provide the latest generation instruments to equip Russian rovers. This decision takes effect immediately, and will already have an impact on the Luna 25 mission scheduled for later this year.
“LRussian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions represent a fundamental change in circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned cooperation”, explains the ESA in a communicated.
Roscosmos is asked to clear the way
For Luna 25, ESA provided a navigation camera Pilot D produced by OIP Space Instruments. She now has demanded that Roscosmos remove her from her rover. Same thing for the two other planned joint missions, namely Luna 26 and Luna 27. For these two deadlines, Roscosmos will have to do without European equipment.
In this case, this material includes in particular two fairly important elements. The first of these is an optical navigation system based on the analysis of images by a system based on artificial intelligence. The second is a high-performance drill, designed to fetch samples one meter below the lunar surface.
This decision is not without consequences on the European side. Indeed, ESA will now have to find a new partner. She did not give up on the idea of testing all the equipment that should have been sifted through on Luna missions 25, 26 and 27.
She even has already solved part of the problem negotiating the fate of the drill. This will be delivered to the NASAwho will be happy to include it in their program Commercial Lunar Payload Service.
ExoMars also at a standstill
According to Space.com, the ESA also intends to cut ties with Yuzhmash. It is a Ukrainian manufacturer which produces rocket engines; these are currently used by ESA on small Vega launchers. The agency now believes that it has enough in stock to ensure the continuation of operations until the end of 2023. And on this date, it intends to start working with a new partner, likely to offer it a more modern and efficient solution. .
All these decisions follow another comparable resolution taken by ESA recently. At the end of March, the agency announcement the end of cooperation within the framework ofExoMars. This is a very exciting mission since its objective is much the same as that of the Perseverance rover; it’s about surveying Mars hoping to find signs of past life there. Its suspension is therefore a serious setback for the entire European exploration program – a discipline where Europe is already lagging considerably behind the United States.
An important void that will have to be filled
Be that as it may, these decisions are unlikely to doom the missions concerned – even if they will undoubtedly delay them. On the other hand, what is more problematic is that we continue to witness a gradual dissolution of ties between Russian aerospace and its counterparts.
This is a damaging situation in both scientific and geopolitical terms. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, aerospace has been an ideal pretext for maintaining a certain level of cooperation and dialogue. But it now appears that this situation is coming to an end. The end of cooperation within the framework of the ISS (see our article) moreover represented a particularly symbolic nail in the coffin of this relationship.
It will now be necessary to follow the next announcements from the ESA carefully. It will be interesting to observe how it will proceed to relaunch these different missions, starting with ExoMars. Because even if it should come out of it without Roscosmos in the long term, it is indisputable that the end of this cooperation which resulted in superb scientific adventures is regrettable on many levels.
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War in Ukraine: ESA slams the door in the face of the Russian agency
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