Artist's illustration of the rover on Mars. Photo: ESA/ATG medialab

The European Space Agency and Roscosmos announced on Thursday that their joint ExoMars mission expected to launch this year is now delayed to 2022.

The big picture: The decision to postpone the mission was made due to technical issues around the spacecraft's development and possible travel restrictions resulting from the unfolding novel coronavirus pandemic.

Details: The ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover is now slated to take flight sometime between August and October of 2022.

  • Parachutes designed to bring the rover safely to the planet's surface still need to go through testing ahead of launch, and other components of the mission also need to go through testing.

What they're saying: "We want to make ourselves 100% sure of a successful mission. We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error. More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars,” ESA director general Jan Wörner said in a statement.

  • Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin said the decision to delay was primarily made due to the need to test the spacecraft's systems, but he added that the COVID-19 situation in Europe has "left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries."

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