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techkenyot.com February 21, 2019


Name of UK-built Mars rover revealed

09 February 2019, 07:58 | Edward Lowe

UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin

European Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

In the memory of the DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, the UK-made ESA's Mars Rover that would soon search for alien life on Mars would bear her name.

The UK Space Agency announced the official name of the ExoMars rover on Thursday after running a naming contest in 2018. The rover is part of the mission's second phase, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 and land on the Red Planet in March 2021.

The name was revealed by astronaut Tim Peake and science minister Chris Skidmore at an event in Stevenage on Thursday as part of a public competition launched in July a year ago.

"This is a big moment for British science", science minister Skidmore said.

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Rosalind Franklin was a British physicist, biophysicist, chemist, X-ray crystallographer, and biologist who contributed to the understanding of DNA, RNA, coal, viruses, and graphite.

Over a third of the science instruments used in the ExoMars mission are led by women.

"The European Space Agency is a real asset to the work - the United Kingdom is a proud founding member and will remain committed into the future", he said.

The brilliant, but long-unrecognised, 20th century British scientist's name was selected with the help of a public competition in which almost 36,000 took part. It was revealed by ESA astronaut Tim Peake on February 7 at the facility in England where the rover is being constructed.

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Peake said: "This rover will scout the Martian surface equipped with next-generation instruments, a fully-fledged automated laboratory on Mars".

Johann-Dietrich "Jan" Wörner Director General, European Space Agency said: "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".

The Rosalind Franklin rover is part of the ExoMars program, which is a joint endeavor between the ESA and Russia's Roscosmos. European Space Agency astronaut Time Peake stood alongside Skidmore at the event, which was held in the "Mars Yard" testing ground at Airbus Defence and Space's facilities in Stevenage, England. "ExoMars is the culmination of our industry experience over the last half a century where we have worked alongside academia and agencies to push the boundaries in space both for satellites and missions to other planets".

The rover is under development in the UK. 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 never went further with her research. When she graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1941, she was only given a degree titular because women were not entitled to getting degrees at the time, but she did receive her PhD from Ohio University in 1945.

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Franklin was an English scientist best known for groundbreaking work on the molecular structure of DNA. Watson and Crick used their own data and Franklin's photograph to create a model for the building blocks of life.



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