ESA Name Mars Rover After British Chemist Rosalind Franklin

More than 36,000 entries were received in the naming competition for the Exo Mars mission

More than 36,000 entries were received in the naming competition for the Exo Mars mission

The British built rover that will roam over the surface of Mars in 2021 has been named after the female scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA.

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

It's said that when American scientist James Watson saw Franklin's X-ray crystallography image of DNA, he immediately realized he and English scientist Francis Crick were right about its double-helix structure and published their findings.

"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore", ESA director general Jan Wörner said in a statement. 'Science is in our DNA and in everything we do at ESA.

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The ExoMars mission will launch in summer 2020 from the Roscosmos site in Kazakhstan, where current astronaut missions launch to the International Space Station. A panel of experts selected the name and revealed it at a ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, United Kingdom, where engineers now are building the rover.

Franklin was an English scientist best known for groundbreaking work on the molecular structure of DNA. When she graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1941, she was only given a degree titular because women were not entitled to getting degrees at the time, but she did receive her PhD from Ohio University in 1945. Franklin herself was excluded, even though her work was key to the discovery. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway. 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. She developed cancer and died at age 37. Her contribution was not recognised in many science books until the 1990s. It will also assist in preparing for other robotic missions, including a Mars Sample Return mission, and possible future human exploration. 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.

It will use solar power to drive around with the help of optic sensors.

The data on board Rosalind will be beamed up to the Trace Gas Orbiter overhead, created to search for tiny amounts of gases in the Martian atmosphere that might be linked to biological or geological activity.

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