Due to the coronavirus epidemic that is spreading day by day, many sectors experience difficulties. The European Space Agency (ESA) has also decided to pause on various scientific missions.
The decision taken by ESA affected 4 of the 21 active tasks currently carried out by the agency. With the decision, resources will be transferred to the Mercury space probe BepiColombo, developed by the European Space Agency and the Japan Space Research Agency.
BepiColombo, the first spacecraft to be sent to Mercury from Europe, was launched into orbit from French Guiana in 2018 with the Ariane 5 rocket. With the said spacecraft, it is aimed to better understand Mercury, the smallest planet of the Solar system. ESA’s move put 4 selected missions into a temporary pause.
Coronavirus obstacle to 4 space programs:
“Our priority is the health of our workforce and therefore we will reduce the activity in some scientific missions, especially in interplanetary spacecraft, which currently require the largest number of staff on the field,” said Tolf Densing, Director of Operations at ESA. Stating that spacecraft has fixed orbit and long duty periods, Densing stated that the decision will have a negligible effect on general mission performances.
The Cluster program of the European Space Agency, launched in 2000, has been discontinued due to the coronavirus outbreak; ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter conducted with Roscosmos; Mars Express and Solar Orbiter. Thomas Zurbuchen, Deputy Director of NASA Science Task Department, stated that they supported ESA’s decision by considering the current conditions.
With the postponement of these tasks, support for the BepiColombo mission will increase. BepiColombo will maneuver in a few weeks, taking advantage of the gravitational force of the Earth. Thus, the spacecraft will direct its orbit towards Mercury. The personnel responsible for this task will continue to work while maintaining social distance and taking health measures.