Rover that will search for life on Mars named after Rosalind Franklin

James Marshall
February 9, 2019

A panel of experts has chosen Rosalind Franklin as the name for the European Space Agency's (ESA)'s upcoming Mars rover, which is now expected to begin exploring the Red Planet in 2021.

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

The name was revealed Thursday by astronaut Tim Peake and Science Minister Chris Skidmore after more than 36,000 people submitted ideas, which were narrowed down by a panel of experts. Franklin's work was integral to their discovery of the correct structure of DNA.

The mission is a joint project between the European and Russian space agencies. If it successfully lands - never an easy feat with Mars' strong gravity and thin atmosphere - the Franklin rover would be Europe's first presence on the Red Planet's surface.

"This rover will scout the Martian surface equipped with next-generation instruments - a fully fledged automated laboratory on Mars", ESA astronaut Tim Peake, who is from the United Kingdom, said during the announcement. A Proton rocket will be used to launch the mission, which will arrive at Mars after a nine-month journey. Dr. Rosalind Franklin was a London-born biologist, physicist, chemist and X-ray crystallographer. Whilst Dr. Franklin contributed greatly to a number of disciplines, she is best known for her part in unraveling the double helix structure of our DNA.

Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958, at age 37, without receiving the public recognition for her work in DNA that would be heaped on her male peers. Without her knowledge, her colleague Maurice Wilkins showed the image to his American collaborators James Watson and Francis Crick.

"Rosalind Franklin is one of science's most influential women, and her part in the discovery of the structure of DNA was truly groundbreaking", Alice Bunn, worldwide director of the U.K. Space Agency, said in a statement.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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