A Mars rover is named after pioneering DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin

European Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin, who lived between 1920 and 1958 (when she died due to ovarian cancer), remained in history for contributing to the discovery of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite. The agency chose to commemorate Franklin for her work as an X-ray crystallographer during the 1940s and '50s.

"Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career", Skidmore said at the name reveal, "I hope "Rosalind the rover" will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come".

Franklin's name was chosen from over 36,000 suggestions submitted by citizens from the European Space Agency's 22 member states.

Rosalind Franklin the Mars rover is scheduled to explore the Red Planet in 2021.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that its ExoMars rover will be named in honour of British chemist Rosalind Franklin.

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The new rover will try to answer that question by drilling two metres into the hot planet's surface to sample and analyse the soil.

In the search for signs of life, a rover headed to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of a woman who helped unravel the mysteries of DNA here on Earth. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA", the agency's director general Jan Woerner said in the announcement.

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. She could never have imagined that over 60 years later there would be a rover sent to Mars bearing her name, but somehow that makes this project even more special", said Jenifer Glynn, Rosalind's sister.

United Kingdom engineers finished building the European space explorer at a delicate political time. Her work laid the foundation for James Watson and Francis Crick to suggest DNA's double-helix structure in 1953. Watson and Crick used their own data and Franklin's photograph to create a model for the building blocks of life.

The first part of the mission was launched in 2016, with the arrival of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which sets out to "sniff" the Martian atmosphere and look for evidence of methane, which may be an indication of active life on or below the planet's surface. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway.

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