Europe’s very first landing of a moving probe on Mars later this year is ‘very likely’ to be called off as a result of the war in Ukraine, according to new reports.

The ExoMars Rover launch to the Red Planet in June was planned as a joint operation by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos, but is now under threat following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It comes as the latest blow after a launch back in July 2020 was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is understood that the international backlash to the conflict and strict sanctions applied to Russia have now complicated teamwork between the two agencies.

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A previous launch date in 2020 had to be rescheduled due to the Covid pandemic

Space missions to Mars have to be launched to a tight schedule to avoid going off-target, and any delays can cause a major issue.

A statement from the ESA read: “We are fully implementing sanctions imposed on Russia by our Member States.

“We are assessing the consequences on each of our ongoing programmes conducted in cooperation with the Russian state space agency Roscosmos and align our decisions to the decisions of our Member States in close coordination with industrial and international partners (in particular with NASA on the International Space Station).”

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine means their joint launch to Mars European Space Agency will now likely be scrapped
The European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos had planned the launch for June

Last week tech mogul Elon Musk vowed his SpaceX firm would save the International Space Station after Russia threatened to drop it on countries who impose economic sanctions against their invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s space chief Dimitry Rogozin made the chilling threat on social media on Friday night in response to US President Joe Biden’s range of sanctions that he said would “degrade Russia’s aerospace industry”.

Rogozin, the chief of Roscomos, asked if the US wanted to “destroy our cooperation on the ISS”.

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He warned: “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States and Europe?”

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