A Mars rover is named after pioneering DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin

09 February, 2019, 19:59 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Exomars Rover Name

When a United Kingdom -built rover takes off for Mars in 2020, it will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin, a pioneering British scientist who made vital contributions to our understanding of the structure of DNA.

British astronaut Tim Peake poses with a working prototype of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars Rover following its naming ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, February 7, 2019.

"I hope "Rosalind the rover" will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come", added the minister.

Over a third of the science instruments used in the ExoMars mission are led by women. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA". The six-wheeled rover is expected to drill into the surface of Mars in its search for past and present alien life on Mars.

The name was chosen among 36,000 entries into a competition launched by the UK Space Agency a year ago, with a panel of experts eventually determining that Franklin's legacy shall carry on outside of Earth. Not only that, but she also made enduring contributions to the study of coal, carbon and graphite. It will likely land in Oxia Planum, a lowland region just north of Mars's equator.


The rover is under development in the UK. 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. Although it's sometimes reported that she was passed over for the prize due to her gender, there is another explanation; the Nobel rules prohibit posthumous awards, and Franklin's career was cut short by ovarian cancer four years earlier in 1958. The 2020 mission of the ExoMars program will deliver a European rover and a Russian surface platform to the surface of Mars.

The main aims of ExoMars is to examine the geological environment on Mars and search for evidence of environments that may have once, and perhaps could still, support life. 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. The rover's software will have a degree of "intelligence" and autonomy to make certain decisions on the ground and will navigate using optical sensors. A spacecraft known as the Trace Gas Orbiter, which was launched in 2016 and can detect tiny amounts of gases in the planet's atmosphere, will function as a relay center that sends commands to the rover and downloads its data to Earth.

An artist's depiction of the Rosalind Franklin rover, which Europe plans to place on the Martian surface in March 2021.

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

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