ESA's new Mars rover named after woman who unlocked DNA's structure

New Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

New Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Part of the DNA data that she gathered was used to create Crick and Watson's hypothesis on DNA structure, but she was not able to receive the Nobel Prize with them as she had already died of ovarian cancer when they received it in 1962.

Britain's Science Minister Chris Skidmore and British astronaut Tim Peake announced the rover will be called the Rosalind Franklin.

Born in London in 1920, Franklin is best known for taking detailed x-ray images of DNA's double helix structure at a time when relatively little was known about DNA molecules-and for being largely ignored by the male scientists who built upon her research.

The British-built Mars rover scheduled to be launched in 2020 has been named after scientist Rosalind Franklin. Franklin herself was excluded, even though her work was key to the discovery. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA", explained ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

The Rosalind Franklin rover is part of the ExoMars program, which is a joint endeavor between the ESA and Russia's Roscosmos. The main goal of rover Rosalind Franklin is to examine the environment of Mars for possible signs of previous life and perhaps if it can still do so.

Dr. Franklin was instrumental in advancing our understanding of the building blocks of life, and so it is only appropriate that a rover bearing her name would hunt for evidence of life existing beyond the atmospheric confines of our Blue Marble.

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"Can we find primitive life on the Red Planet?" he asked. Although Franklin's contribution to the "discovery" of DNA is now widely recognised, there remains a lingering sense that her contribution was unjustly overlooked and undervalued. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway. Her contribution was not recognised in many science books until the 1990s.

It's somewhat poetic, then, that a rover dedicated to finding life would be named after someone whose research was used to learn about the blueprint of life.

The rover will roam around the Martian surface by using electrical power generated from its solar arrays.

The rover will relay data to Earth through the Trace Gas Orbiter, a spacecraft searching for tiny amounts of gases in the Martian atmosphere that might be linked to biological or geological activity since 2016.

Once on the surface of Mars, the Rosalind Franklin will begin science operations.

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

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