Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sees hunt to find aliens put on hold

Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion has halted the hunt for aliens.

The European Space Agency has ended cooperation with Russia on a series of missions that could unearth extraterrestrial life.

The agency has announced it will discontinue cooperative activities on three trips to the Moon – Luna-25, 26 and 27.

Boffins had planned to test new equipment and technology on the Russian-driven space voyages.

Space agency chiefs have also suspended collaboration on the ET-hunting ExoMars operation. It was a plan to land a rover on Mars to drill into the soil and search for signs of alien life.

A spokesman for the space agency said: "As with ExoMars, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions put in place represent a fundamental change of circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned lunar cooperation.

"As an inter-governmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine.

"While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states."

The ExoMars mission to the Red Planet – a joint venture between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos – was due to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in September using a Russian Proton rocket.

But ESA’s ruling council has suspended activities with Russia. The agency’s director-general Dr Josef Aschbacher is carrying out a fast-track study to find a new partner.

He said: "Over the past two days our member states discussed the impact of the war in Ukraine on ESA’s space programmes.

"Together we took a tough – but necessary – decision to suspend the launch of ExoMars foreseen for September with Roscosmos and to study options for a way forward."

The ESA could now turn to Nasa for help with the Mars mission. The rover was built by Airbus in Stevenage, Herts, and was scheduled to land on Mars in June 2023 where it was to drill deep into the planet looking for lifeforms.

University College London has designed aPan-Cam system with special filters to scan the Martian surface for minerals that would prove there was once liquid water that could have hosted extraterrestrial organisms.

Once a location has been chosen the rover will drill down six-and-a-half feet to take samples and feed them into a mobile laboratory where they will be crushed up and examined for organic matter.

Scientists believe confirmation of life could come within weeks of the rover landing. But the mission has now been delayed indefinitely.

The ESA said the International Space Station was continuing to run nominally, adding the main goal was to continue safe operations.

Putin’s henchmen have threatened to remove their astronauts after being hit by western sanctions.

The suspension of the alien life hunt triggered disappointment on internet forums.

One wrote: "It could take years for them to start all this up again – if ever. ET will be shaking his head in disbelief."

"It’s just another rotten side effect of this awful war," added another.

A third wrote: "One thing is for sure – no alien will want to visit this planet with all this madness going on."

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