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

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The British European Space Agency (ESA) has finally announced the official name of the UK-made ExoMars rover. Now called Rosalind Franklin, it is named after the scientist and discoverer of the structure of the DNA.

ExoMars Rover

On Feb. 7, ESA astronaut Tim Peake with Science Minister Chris Skidmore officially announced that the name of the ExoMars rover that is going to be used in the ExoMars program will be Rosalind Franklin. The name was selected by a panel of experts from a list of names submitted by members of the public after a naming competition was opened last July and was selected out of nearly 36,000 responses. Those who chose the final name were invited to the naming ceremony where they got the chance to meet Tim Peake.

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. 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.

Rosalind Franklin

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. 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.

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. Furthermore, archives also revealed in 2008 that she was not even nominated. Today, despite being credited for her contribution to the discovery of DNA, many still find that her contribution was rather overlooked and undervalued.

“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.

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