The Russian and European space agencies have postponed their joint mission to Mars, citing technical difficulties and the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian space agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) "made a difficult but well-weighed decision" to postpone the launch of ExoMars to 2022, Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian agency, said in a statement on March 12.
Rogozin said the decision was "driven primarily by the need to maximize the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe,” which he said "left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries."
ESA Director General Jan Worner said that "more verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars."
The ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet has been repeatedly postponed and was most recently scheduled for this year.
Worldwide, more than 118,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus and nearly 4,300 people have died, most of them in China, where the disease originated.