How the Russia-Ukraine War Impacts International Space Missions


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Avanti Khare, Sci-Tech Editor

Space missions from Mars rovers to Earth-orbiting satellites are facing postponements or cancellations due to the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. These changes in plans are in part due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the United States, according to Science News. The shifts are impacting everything from international collaborations to missions that rely on Russian rockets to get to space.

For example, the ExoMars mission is a partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. This is a two-part mission to Mars that contains an orbiter and a rover and is meant to search for signs of past life on the red planet. The orbiter reached Mars in late 2016, but the Rosalind Franklin Rover was supposed to launch this September. In a March 17 statement, the ESA said their leadership “unanimously acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022.”

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also affected US space activities, but to a lesser extent than its impact on the ESA. The International Space Station collaboration so far seems unchanged. Currently there are two Russian cosmonauts, four NASA astronauts and one ESA astronaut aboard the station. According to NASA public affairs officer Joshua Finch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, a Russian Soyuz Capsule is set to return the two cosmonauts and the and one of the NASA astronauts to Earth, landing in Kazakhstan as scheduled. However, during a March 1 NASA advisory meeting, several officials recommended that the US space agency think about what cooperation with Russia on space missions going forward would look like.