New British-made Mars rover named after unsung DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

Pablo Tucker
February 9, 2019

Not only that, but she also made enduring contributions to the study of coal, carbon and graphite. The agency chose to commemorate Franklin for her work as an X-ray crystallographer during the 1940s and '50s.

"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 six-wheeler will be looking for traces of life beyond Earth

"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 European Space Agency (ESA) announced today (Feb. 7) that its next Mars rover will be named for Rosalind Franklin, the late British scientist, who was behind the discovery of DNA's double-helix structure.


In the search for signs of life, a rover headed to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of a woman who helped unravel the mysteries of DNA here on Earth.

"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore". '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.


The ExoMars mission is already underway, and Rosalind the rover will join other spacecraft that have been deployed to the Red Planet.

The mission is a joint project between the European and Russian space agencies. 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. She went to Newnham College, Cambridge in 1938 and passed her finals in 1941, but was only awarded a degree titular as women were not entitled to degrees at that time.


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. Watson and Crick used their own data and Franklin's photograph to create a model for the building blocks of life. Because she died in 1958, aged 37, she never received the recognition given to her male peers for deciphering the DNA. Her contribution was not recognised in many science books until the 1990s.

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