Russia Says Looking At China, Middle-East Nations To Fund ExoMars Mission After EU Pulls Out Over Ukraine Invasion

The head of the Russian space agency has said that Roscosmos was exploring options to fund the ExoMars 2022 mission after Europe suspended cooperation over Ukraine.

Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) were to launch a rover to Mars in September. After the ESA pullout, Russia said it would go ahead alone, although the mission would be delayed by several years.

“I don’t rule out teaming up with another partner instead of the Europeans. It can be a Persian Gulf country or China,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said at an event northeast of Moscow.

He added that Russia had the technology to launch a mission to Mars but would consider finding an “investor” abroad.

Rogozin said the United States wanted to continue working together on the International Space Station but Washington’s hostility toward Russia and its president cast doubt on the future of bilateral cooperation aboard the orbital outpost. Instead, Roscosmos plans to focus on doubling its satellite constellation in order to keep the rocket-making industry busy, among other goals, Rogozin said.

The European Space Agency earlier confirmed its commitment to sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine. The agency acknowledged that sanctions targeting the country’s economy and technology sector make the launch of the Russian-European mission ExoMars in 2022 very unlikely.

The ExoMars mission was originally planned for 2018, but was postponed twice, first to 2020 and then to 2022, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch window for traveling from Earth to Mars opens every two years.

ESA - ExoMars rover
ESA – ExoMars rover

Earlier, Roscosmos said that its mission to Mars will need no Mars rover because the landing module itself is a self-sufficient research station.

“Will be any kind of Mars rover needed there? I don’t think it will be needed, as the landing module itself is a self-sufficient research station. It will be enough to implement the mission,” Rogozin told journalists at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Roscosmos added that it is not difficult to recreate the Kazachok landing module, which Russia has developed for the ExoMars-2022 mission.