Roscosmos, The Russian Federal Space Agency, and the European Space Agency have jointly announced today that phase 2 of the ExoMars mission has been delayed until 2020, as a result of which they will not be sending a rover to Mars until the end of this decade. The second phase of the ExoMars mission is aimed at finding out whether alien life exists on Mars, or if it has ever existed on the Red Planet before, and the rover was supposed to help them determine that.
“Taking into account the delays in European and Russian industrial activities and deliveries of the scientific payload, a launch in 2020 would be the best solution,” confirmed the two agencies.
This is a joint effort between Roscosmos and the ESA, they were hoping to launch the rover by 2018, but technical challenges have pushed back the timeline and they’re now looking at a launch after 2020.
Phase one of the ExoMars mission involved two spacecraft being sent to Mars, they’re currently on their way to the neighbouring planet and are expected to reach Mars by October this year. The Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft will orbit Mars and measure the types of gasses in its atmosphere whereas the Schiaparelli lander will try to land on the planet itself.
The rover was supposed to be sent up in phase two of this mission, it was designed to explore the Red Planet and dig samples of dirt to ascertain where life exists there or whether it existed at some point in time.