Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
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Europe's ExoMars Rover Officially Named After DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Europe's ExoMars Rover Officially Named After DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Not only that, but she also made enduring contributions to the study of coal, carbon and graphite.

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.

The name "Rosalind Franklin" was one of more than 36,000 entries submitted in a public contest to name the ExoMars rover.

"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.

The British-built Mars rover scheduled to be launched in 2020 has been named after scientist Rosalind Franklin. 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", ESA director general Jan Wörner said in a statement.

ExoMars is a joint mission between ESA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Cambridge-educated Franklin "helped us understand life on Earth and now her namesake will do the same on Mars", UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore said at the unveiling. 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. 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. The ambition is for the United Kingdom be the world's most innovative economy - and the development of the ExoMars rover for the United Kingdom is a part of this ambition. Her images of crystallized DNA fibers confirmed theories about DNA's double-helix structure. Franklin herself was excluded, even though her work was key to the discovery. Her data was a part of the data used to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. Franklin was unable to receive the prize as Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but she received no mention in the acceptance speeches.

She died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1958. Her contribution was not recognised in many science books until the 1990s.

The first part of the mission was launched in 2016, with the arrival of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which sets out to "sniff" the Martian atmosphere and look for evidence of methane, which may be an indication of active life on or below the planet's surface.

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