ESA Name Mars Rover After British Chemist Rosalind Franklin

European Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today that the upcoming rover in its ExoMars mission will be named after the late scientist Rosalind Franklin.

The Rosalind Franklin rover will head to Mars in 2020 with a similar mission, equipped with a drill that will reach several feet below the surface, sample the soils underground, and analyze them to try and find traces of past or present life. "With it, we are building on our European heritage in robotic exploration, and at the same time devising new technologies".

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.

United Kingdom engineers finished building the European space explorer at a delicate political time.

"There were many very colourful entries - Rover McRoverface I think at one point was one of the most popular names, but of course I think Rosalind Franklin is a much more fitting tribute to a great British scientist", Maj Peake added.

The ExoMars mission is created to search for evidence of life on Mars.

"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore", ESA Director General Jan Woerner said.

The ExoMars rover, which ESA officials are now just calling Rosalind for short, joins other ESA space mission hardware bearing the names of historical figures such as the Schiaparelli module, named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, that attempted a landing on Mars in 2016.

Franklin's contribution to their research remained largely overlooked in science books until the 1990s. At that time, hers was the best shot of the double helix. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway.

The rover is part of the ExoMars programme, a joint endeavour between ESA and the Russian State Space Corporation, Roscosmos.

Crick, Watson, and Maurice Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize for their work, but since Franklin died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, she could not be considered for the award. The rover's software will have a degree of "intelligence" and autonomy to make certain decisions on the ground and will navigate using optical sensors.

What the Rosalind rover will look like on Mars.

And the University of Leicester in England worked on Rosalind's electronics and data processing panel.

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