Future Mars Rover Named for DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin

09 Février, 2019, 19:58 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • British astronaut Tim Peake poses with a working prototype of the Rosalind Franklin Exo Mars Rover

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 previous year.

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.

A British-made rover that will set off for Mars next year in search for signs of life was named yesterday after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin. 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.

"In the a year ago 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.

Dr. Franklin was instrumental in advancing our understanding of the building blocks of life, and so it is only appropriate that a rover bearing her name would hunt for evidence of life existing beyond the atmospheric confines of our Blue Marble.

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

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.

Today, Franklin is regarded as one of the 20th century's most overlooked scientists.

The new rover will try to answer that question by drilling two metres into the hot planet's surface to sample and analyse the soil. Although it's sometimes reported that she was passed over for the prize due to her gender, there is another explanation; the Nobel rules prohibit posthumous awards, and Franklin's career was cut short by ovarian cancer four years earlier in 1958. Her contribution was not recognised in many science books until the 1990s. 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.

The rover will roam around the Martian surface by using electrical power generated from its solar arrays. Rosalind the rover will relay its data to Earth through communication with the TGO.

The University of Leicester and Teledyne e2v are working on the Raman Spectrometer with STFC RAL Space providing some of the electronics, including the data processing board.

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