Monday, 26 August, 2019

UK-built Mars rover named after British scientist Rosalind Franklin

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Take a closer look at what the rover will look like Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Take a closer look at what the rover will look like
Sandy Nunez | 09 February, 2019, 19:56

She was the subject of a 2013 Google Doodle that highlighted her contributions to our understanding of the molecular makeup of DNA and RNA.

Britain's Science Minister Chris Skidmore and British astronaut Tim Peake announced the rover will be called the Rosalind Franklin.

Franklin's name was chosen from over 36,000 suggestions submitted by citizens from the European Space Agency's 22 member states.

A panel of experts has chosen Rosalind Franklin as the name for the European Space Agency's (ESA)'s upcoming Mars rover, which is now expected to begin exploring the Red Planet in 2021. "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".

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

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Once safely on Mars, the solar-powered rover has the potential to make transformative discoveries that could answer many longstanding questions surrounding the nature of the Red Planet. Astronaut Tim Peake has presented the new name of the ESA's Mars Rover at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the machine is being put together, as we speak, as BBC reported. 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 UK Space Agency is the second largest European contributor to the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, having invested €287 million in the mission and £14 million on the instruments.

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.

The rover is under development in the UK. While she was a biophysicist at King's College London, she captured "Photo 51"- an X-ray image of a strand of DNA extracted from human calf tissue. Furthermore, archives also revealed in 2008 that she was not even nominated. The region contains clay-rich minerals and has preserved its wet geologic history, making it a prime location for the rover to search for evidence of current and past life.

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.