The European Space Agency has said it hibernated eight of its spacecraft because it reduced operations during the coronavirus outbreak. The agency said on Tuesday that it would further reduce the already limited number of on-site staff at the mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. As a result, the instruments and data collection on some space probes were temporarily discontinued.
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They include the Cluster Mission, consisting of four probes launched in 2000 to investigate Earth’s magnetic environment and how it is affected by solar wind; the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, launched in 2016 to investigate the atmosphere of the red planet; Mars Express, launched in 2003, which captured images of the surface of Mars; and the Solar Orbiter mission launched last month to observe the sun. The eight spacecraft were under 21 that were currently flown from Darmstadt. The agency said an employee there tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our priority is the health of our staff, and that is why we will reduce activities on some of our scientific missions, especially on interplanetary spacecraft, which currently require the greatest number of on-site personnel,” said Rolf Densing, ESA Operations Director. He said putting the probes to sleep would have “a negligible impact” on their missions.
The European Space Agency recently said it postponed the launch of its joint Mars-rover mission with the Russian Roscosmos until 2022, partly due to travel restrictions due to the pandemic. NASA has also temporarily halted work on the James Webb space telescope in California due to the coronavirus, putting the launch date for spring 2021 at risk.
(This story has not been edited by staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
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