New Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

British astronaut Tim Peake poses with a working prototype of the Rosalind Franklin Exo Mars Rover following its naming ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage

European Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

"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 was a British chemist who was integral in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, although she died from cancer at age 37, so did not live to see the accolades her fellow researchers received including the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 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". 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.

Astronaut Tim Peake launched a campaign in July asking citizens of ESA member states to submit name suggestions online.

"In the previous year 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. "It's fitting that the robot bearing her name will search for the building blocks of life on Mars, as she did so on Earth through her work on DNA".

In addition to the core sampler, the Rosalind Franklin carries the Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Information on Mars (WISDOM), Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM), Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-Miss), the Close-Up Imager (CLUPI), and the Pasteur Instrument Suite.

"Can we find primitive life on the Red Planet?" he asked.

The ExoMars mission will launch in summer 2020 from the Roscosmos site in Kazakhstan, where current astronaut missions launch to the International Space Station.

Today, Franklin is regarded as one of the 20th century's most overlooked scientists. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway. It's main aim would be to examine the surface of Mars for evidence of past life-supporting environments. The 2020 mission of the ExoMars program will deliver a European rover and a Russian surface platform to the surface of Mars.

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

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.

The University of Leicester and Teledyne e2v are working on the Raman Spectrometer with STFC RAL Space providing some of the electronics, including the data processing board.

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