BERLIN – The European Space Agency said on Tuesday that it puts eight of its spacecraft to sleep when it scales off operations during the coronavirus outbreak.
The agency said it would further reduce the already limited number of staff working on site at its mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. As a result, the instruments and data collection on some room probes are temporarily stopped.
They include the Cluster mission, which consists of four probes that were launched in 2000 to investigate the Earth’s magnetic environment and how it is affected by solar wind; ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter was launched in 2016 to investigate the atmosphere of the Red Planet; Mars Express, launched in 2003 and which has taken pictures of the surface of Mars; and the Solar Orbiter mission launched last month to observe the sun.
The eight spacecraft are among 21 currently flying from Darmstadt. The agency said an employee there has tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our priority is the health of our workforce and we will therefore reduce activity on some of our scientific missions, especially on interplanetary spacecraft, which currently require the highest number of personnel on site,” said ESA’s operations manager, Rolf Densing,.
He said putting probes to sleep would have “a negligible impact” on their mission.
European Space Agency said recently it postponed the launch of the joint Mars rover mission with Russia’s Roscosmos until 2022, partly due to travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic.
NASA has also temporarily suspended work with the James Webb Space Telescope in California due to corona virus, which puts its launch date for spring 2021 in jeopardy.