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

New Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Franklin captured structural images of substances like viruses and coal, as well as the crucial biological compounds DNA and RNA, which both carry genetic information.

In the wake of WWII, Franklin moved to Paris and studied x-ray crystallography, also known as x-ray diffraction analysis, which can pinpoint the position of atoms in a crystal.

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

The Rosalind Franklin rover will embark on a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos, planned to launch in summer 2020 with the aim of understanding whether life exists or ever existed on the Red Planet.

"In the a year ago of Rosalind's life, I remember visiting her in hospital on the day when she was excited by the news of the [Soviet Sputnik satellite]-the very beginning of space exploration", Franklin's sister, Jenifer Glynn, told BBC.

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. The six-wheeled rover is expected to drill into the surface of Mars in its search for past and present alien life on Mars.

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

The rover was built by the British-based defence and space unit of the pan-European Airbus corporation. The rover is part of the mission's second phase, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 and land on the Red Planet in March 2021.

The UK Space Agency is the second largest European contributor to the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, having invested €287 million in the mission and £14 million on the instruments.

The rover is under development in the UK.

"Watson and Crick never told Franklin that they had seen her materials, and they did not directly acknowledge their debt to her work when they published their classic announcement in Nature that April", the U.S. National Library of Medicine writes.

Her X-ray images permitted her colleagues, James Watson and Francis Crick, to depict DNA's double-helix form. She died quite young at the age of 37 in 1958. Franklin was unable to receive the prize as Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but she received no mention in the acceptance speeches. Rosalind the rover will be tasked with uncovering evidence to reveal whether the now-barren world once harbored life, or indeed if it is still capable of doing so deep beneath the surface.

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