Research

The European Mars Rover Will Be Named After DNA Scientist Rosalind Franklin

The European Mars Rover Will Be Named After DNA Scientist Rosalind Franklin

She also made key contributions to the study of coal, graphite, and viruses.

The name was revealed by astronaut Tim Peake and science minister Chris Skidmore at an event in Stevenage on Thursday as part of a public competition launched in July previous year.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today (7 February) that its rover for the upcoming ExoMars mission will be named Rosalind, after Rosalind Elsie Franklin. "Rosalind the rover captures this spirit and carries us all to the forefront of space exploration".

When a United Kingdom -built rover takes off for Mars in 2020, it will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin, a pioneering British scientist who made vital contributions to our understanding of the structure of DNA.

Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover and surface platform on the surface of Mars.

According to Skidmore, the name is fitting for the rover, as she helped us understand life on Earth, and now the rover will help us do the same on Mars.

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'[The] name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore, ' said Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ExoMars mission will launch in summer 2020 from the Roscosmos site in Kazakhstan, where current astronaut missions launch to the International Space Station.

Alice Bunn, worldwide director at the UK Space Agency, said: "Rosalind Franklin is one of science's most influential women, and her part in the discovery of the structure of DNA was truly ground-breaking". A panel of experts selected the name and revealed it at a ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, United Kingdom, where engineers now are building the rover.

The rover is under development in the UK.

It's said that when American scientist James Watson saw Franklin's X-ray crystallography image of DNA, he immediately realized he and English scientist Francis Crick were right about its double-helix structure and published their findings. Franklin never went further with her research. Watson and Crick used their own data and Franklin's photograph to create a model for the building blocks of life. Franklin was unable to receive the prize as Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but she received no mention in the acceptance speeches. She died quite young at the age of 37 in 1958. This left many to believe she was not given the recognition she deserved, says BBC.

Its mission is to roam the surface and drill down two meters into the surface to analyze soil composition in a search for past or present signs of life.