UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin | AP business

UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin | AP business

UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin | AP business

Franklin, who had died of ovarian cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, was not included in the honor, as Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously. Franklin captured structural images of substances like viruses and coal, as well as the crucial biological compounds DNA and RNA, which both carry genetic information.

Maj Peake said: "It's an important name because Rosalind Franklin was one of the great British scientists who unlocked the secrets of human life in terms of understanding DNA and the double helix, and ExoMars is so exciting because we're searching for life and the possibility that life evolved on Mars". Franklin never went further with her research.

The ExoMars rover, which ESA officials are now just calling Rosalind for short, joins other ESA space mission hardware bearing the names of historical figures such as the Schiaparelli module, named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, that attempted a landing on Mars in 2016.

With this new ESA rover, Rosalind Franklin will finally get to perform scientific research again, at least in spirit.

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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.

"Can we find primitive life on the Red Planet?" he asked.

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. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway. At depths of two metres, the rover drill will be able to take samples of the soil and search for any evidence - past or present - of microbial life.

The rover is part of the ExoMars programme, a joint endeavour between ESA and the Russian State Space Corporation, Roscosmos.

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The rover will roam around the Martian surface by using electrical power generated from its solar arrays.

Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage is leading the build of the rover while the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory is leading on a key instrument known as the PanCam, a high-resolution 3D camera which will be used to look at the terrain and rocks to try to detect signs of life.

The data on board Rosalind will be beamed up to the Trace Gas Orbiter overhead, created to search for tiny amounts of gases in the Martian atmosphere that might be linked to biological or geological activity.

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