Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

The rover comes with a drill that should boost the chances of finding life

Dr. Alice Bunn, International Director, 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".

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. Now, ESA honored Rosalind Franklin by naming its next Mars Rover after her.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today that the upcoming rover in its ExoMars mission will be named after the late scientist Rosalind Franklin.

Once safely on Mars, the solar-powered rover has the potential to make transformative discoveries that could answer many longstanding questions surrounding the nature of the Red Planet.

According to Skidmore, the name is fitting for the rover, as she helped us understand life on Earth, and now the rover will help us do the same on Mars.

"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore".

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".

In terms of a landing spot, ESA has already picked out a site called Oxia Planum near the planet's equator, an area once water-rich, giving hope that remnants of ancient life could have existed there.

"The European Space Agency is a real asset to the work - the United Kingdom is a proud founding member and will remain committed into the future", he said.

The rover is under development in the UK.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist, physicist, chemist, biologist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. Her data was a part of the data used to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. The region contains clay-rich minerals and has preserved its wet geologic history, making it a prime location for the rover to search for evidence of current and past life. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway.

Crick, Watson, and Maurice Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize for their work, but since Franklin died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, she could not be considered for the award.

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