ESA Mars rover named after Rosalind Franklin, brilliant DNA pioneer

ESA Mars rover named after Rosalind Franklin, brilliant DNA pioneer

The agency chose to commemorate Franklin for her work as an X-ray crystallographer during the 1940s and '50s.

The UK Space Agency announced the official name of the ExoMars rover on Thursday after running a naming contest in 2018.

"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, global director of the U.K. Space Agency, said in a statement.

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. After her work on DNA, she conducted similarly groundbreaking research into the structure of plant viruses, adding to the list of accomplishments she had achieved throughout her career. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA", explained ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

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In addition to the core sampler, the Rosalind Franklin carries the Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Information on Mars (WISDOM), Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM), Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-Miss), the Close-Up Imager (CLUPI), and the Pasteur Instrument Suite.

Being that the rover-built at the Airbus factory in Stevenage, England-will head to Mars in 2020 to search for life, it's fitting that the machinery is named after the scientist who helped discover the shape of what life's made of. It's slated to arrive in March 2021, and set to explore an area near the Red Planet's equator called Oxia Planum. The ambition is for the United Kingdom be the world's most innovative economy - and the development of the ExoMars rover for the United Kingdom is a part of this ambition. 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. Watson and Crick used their own data and Franklin's photograph to create a model for the building blocks of life. Franklin never went further with her research. She died in 1958. This left many to believe she was not given the recognition she deserved, says BBC.

As the first European rover to traverse the surface of Mars, Rosalind Franklin will uniquely drill down to two metres into the Martian surface allowing the rover's scientific instruments to sample and analyse the soil, determine its mineral content and composition, and search for evidence of whether past environments could once have harboured life.

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