Rosalind Franklin: Mars rover named after DNA pioneer
The UK-assembled rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.
The honour follows a public call for suggestions that drew nearly 36,000 responses from right across Europe.
Astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the robot is being put together.
The six-wheeled vehicle will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.
Giving the rover a name associated with a molecule fundamental to biology seems therefore to be wholly appropriate.
Rosalind Franklin played an integral role in the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid.
It was her X-ray images that allowed James Watson and Francis Crick to decipher its double-helix shape.
Franklin’s early death from ovarian cancer in 1958, aged just 37, meant she never received the recognition given to her male peers.
The attachment to the European Space Agency (Esa) rover will now see her name travel beyond Earth.
“In the last year 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, said on Thursday.
“She could never have imagined that over 60 years later there would be a rover sent to Mars bearing her name, but somehow that makes this project even more special.”