ESA has officially named its Mars rover

09 February, 2019, 19:54 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • The rover comes with a drill that should boost the chances of finding life

Rosalind Franklin was selected for her contributions to our understanding of the molecular structure of DNA.

"Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope "Rosalind the rover" will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come", said UK Science Minister Skidmore.

The Rosalind Franklin rover - which will be used to drill down into the soil of Mars and analyze its makeup - will be launched next year in a collaborative mission with the Russian space agency.

With this new ESA rover, Rosalind Franklin will finally get to perform scientific research again, at least in spirit.

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

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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. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA", explained ESA Director General Jan Woerner. It's slated to arrive in March 2021, and set to explore an area near the Red Planet's equator called Oxia Planum.

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.

The announcement was made in the "Mars Yard" at Airbus Defense and Space UK in Stevenage, where the ExoMars rover is being built. 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. By shooting X-rays at a DNA crystal and measuring the resulting image, Franklin produced some key data that let researchers James Watson and Francis Crick discover the shape of the molecule.

Franklin's contribution to their research remained largely overlooked in science books until the 1990s.

Part of the DNA data that she gathered was used to create Crick and Watson's hypothesis on DNA structure, but she was not able to receive the Nobel Prize with them as she had already died of ovarian cancer when they received it in 1962. 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. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway.

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