The European Space Agency has postponed a trip to Mars because of coronavirus

Scenes in famous sci-fi movies often depict alien viruses taking control of the crew of some long lost spacecraft. But it isn't common for diseases on earth to be the main threat to space exploration.

In the real world, that now appears to be the case, as Covid-19 seems to have foiled the European Space Agency's plan to reach the red planet.

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According to the European and Russian space agencies, the ExoMars exploration was scheduled to launch this summer. The expedition aimed to launch the Rosalind Franklin rover to cruise around Mars.

Coronavirus has interfered with vital tests

The space agencies still have many tests to complete before they can safely launch in July, but the global spread of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus has "compromised" the final phase of planned activities.

A number of tests are still required before the launch in July, officials said. Those would not be able to happen in time to ensure that the mission could be successful.

Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said, "We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022.

"It is driven primarily by the need to maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries.

"I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified and will unquestionably bring solely positive results for the mission implementation."

When the planets realign

Space agencies often rely on planetary alignment to travel to other planets. This is because some alignments can reduce the travel time.

The alignment scheduled to assist the exploration to Mars only comes around every two years, and lasts roughly 10 days.