The European space Agency (ESA) due to pandemic COVID-19 suspended research work of a number of spacecraft involved in Solar system research. Among them — the Martian orbital spacecraft “Mars-Express” and “ExoMars”, the probe Solar Orbiter, flying toward the Sun, as well as probes Cluster II exploring the Earth’s magnetosphere, reported on the website of the Agency.
The spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2 seriously affect aerospace activities. In particular, the pandemic is NASA have stopped work on preparation for launch of a space telescope “James Webb”, and many Agency staff were transferred to remote work. ESA also has brought many experts to the remote mode and only a few of them performing this critical work, such as maintenance of the spacecraft in real time, is still present in their jobs.
Strengthening of quarantine measures in Europe and the first case of infection with coronavirus employee of the European space operations centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, has forced the Agency to impose new restrictions on the number of personnel in the mission control center. It was decided to suspend the operation of scientific equipment and translate into safe mode devices four programmes on the exploration of the Solar system. In this mode, only work necessary for the survival of the office of communications and navigation, all of the scientific instruments are switched off. In this mode transferred four probe Cluster IIexploring the Earth’s magnetosphere, Solar Orbiter, heading to study the Sun, Mars space station “Mars Express” and the Trace Gas Orbiter — camera mission “ExoMars-2016”.
The translation of a number of probes into safe mode in order to free up specialists for the maintenance of other spacecraft, in particular BepiColombo, which is on the way to mercury and on April 10 should make a gravity-assist maneuver near the Earth to adjust trajectory. For other research programs in astronomy or Earth remote sensing, such as “Copernicus”, which require frequent monitoring, most operations will be performed remotely at the control station is only one technician.
Informed ESA and Roscosmos announced on carry on two years next stage of the mission “Eczemas”, which was supposed to start this summer. As stated by the heads of space agencies, one of the reasons for the postponement was pandemic coronavirus.