COVID-19: European Space Agency temporarily shuts Mars spacecraft science due to Coronavirus

The European Space Agency is in the process of temporarily turning off the scientific tools for some of its spacecraft as operations during the COVID-19 pandemic are further reduced. The European Space Center of ESA (ESOC) in Germany is responsible for the management of 21 active spacecraft. The shutdown affects a number of famous missions, including the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, the durable Mars Express Orbiter, and the recently launched Solar Orbiter.

“These have stable orbits and long mission times, so turning your scientific instruments off and putting them in a largely unattended, safe configuration for a period of time will have a negligible impact on your overall mission performance,” said Rolf Densing, director of operations the ESA, in a statement on Tuesday.

This is the next step in ESA’s ongoing efforts to curb the coronavirus. “The vast majority of ESA employees have been working in teleworking for almost two weeks,” said ESA. “At ESA’s locations across Europe, only key people are on site to perform important tasks, including maintaining real-time space operations.”

These missions are not the only ones affected. Earlier this month, ESA postponed the launch of its ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin to 2022, citing the corona virus as one of the reasons for the new schedule.

ESA will monitor the situation of the corona virus and will eventually put the closed spacecraft back into operation.

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