ExoMars: Rosalind rover leader discusses failed tests

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The UK Space Agency has announced that the Rosalind Franklin rover passed all of its latest tests. It is on course to head to the Red Planet in September after being assembled in Stevenage. Part of the ExoMars mission, the rover is a joint project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s Roscosmos

Experts have been putting the probe through its paces as it has passed months of successful maintenance and functional tests.

It has now been given the “go for flight” confirmation.

It is currently in an ultra-clean room at the Thales Alenia Space premises in Turin, Italy, alongside launch partner, the Russian Kazachok landing platform.

The rover will have a final review in April, before it will travel to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for launch.

Previously known as the ExoMars Rover, the Rosalind Franklin was originally due to launch for the Red Planet in the summer of 2020.

But it was delayed due to the pandemic.

It is now scheduled to launch this September, arriving on Mars in June 2023.

Pietro Baglioni, ESA’s ExoMars rover team leader, said: “The rover is ready, and together with the recent drop test success for the parachutes, we are positive to be in time for the September launch date.”

Once the rover gets to the Red Planet, it will undergo a “nerve-wracking” descent to the surface, after which Rosalind Franklin will leave the landing platform and drive around the surface.

If all goes to plan, ESA will become the fourth agency to operate a vehicle on another world – following the Soviet Union, NASA and China.

The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars 2022 mission will launch on a Proton-M rocket with a Breeze-M upper stage from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in the 20 September – 1 October 2022 launch window.

A carrier module will transport the descent module with the Rosalind Franklin rover and Kazachok surface science platform inside, to Mars.

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It aims to land in the Oxia Planum region of Mars on 10 June 2023.

Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said the rover showcases some of the best of the UK space sector.

She said: “The Rosalind Franklin rover showcases some of the best of the UK’s space sector and its search for signs of life on Mars will inspire future generations of scientists and engineers.

“It’s very exciting to see this flagship mission pass the latest tests and see the fruition of many years’ hard work as we look forward to the launch later this year.”

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