ESA Name Mars Rover After British Chemist Rosalind Franklin

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ESA Name Mars Rover After British Chemist Rosalind Franklin

Born in London in 1920, Franklin is best known for taking detailed x-ray images of DNA's double helix structure at a time when relatively little was known about DNA molecules-and for being largely ignored by the male scientists who built upon her research.

"There were many very colourful entries - Rover McRoverface I think at one point was one of the most popular names, but of course I think Rosalind Franklin is a much more fitting tribute to a great British scientist", Maj Peake added.

"It's fitting that the robot bearing her name will search for the building blocks of life on Mars, as she did so on Earth through her work on DNA", said Alice Bunn, worldwide director of the UK Space Agency.

"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore", ESA director general Jan Wörner said in a statement.

As the rover is a joint venture between the ESA and the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS, it carries a number of scientific payloads from both agencies.

Alice Bunn, worldwide director at the UK Space Agency, said: "Rosalind Franklin is one of science's most influential women, and her part in the discovery of the structure of DNA was truly ground-breaking".

In November experts meeting at the National Space Centre in Leicester chose Oxia Planum near the Martian equator as the landing site for Rosalind due to its geology and the likelihood of finding signs of life. 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 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 rover is under development in the UK.

Franklin was a pioneering British chemist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to unravelling the double helix structure of our DNA. Her data was a part of the data used to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. It's main aim would be to examine the surface of Mars for evidence of past life-supporting environments.

"Watson and Crick never told Franklin that they had seen her materials, and they did not directly acknowledge their debt to her work when they published their classic announcement in Nature that April", the U.S. National Library of Medicine writes. She died in 1958 and her work was more widely recognized after her death. 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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