Technology & Science

European Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

The British-built Mars rover scheduled to be launched in 2020 has been named after English scientist Rosalind Franklin, who helped unlock the molecular structure of DNA.

Franklin helped unravel the double-helix structure of DNA, but didn't share in Nobel Prize

Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover and surface platform on the surface of Mars. The 2020 mission of the ExoMars program will deliver a European rover and a Russian surface platform to the surface of Mars. A Proton rocket will be used to launch the mission, which will arrive at Mars after a nine-month journey. ( ESA/ATG medialab)

The British-built Mars rover scheduled to be launched in 2020 has been named after scientist Rosalind Franklin.

The ExoMars mission is designed to search for evidence of life on Mars.

The name was revealed Thursday by astronaut Tim Peake and Science Minister Chris Skidmore after more than 36,000 people submitted ideas, which were narrowed down by a panel of experts.

Franklin was an English scientist best known for groundbreaking work on the molecular structure of DNA.

Peake called her "one of the great British scientists who unlocked the secrets of human life in terms of understanding DNA."

The mission is a joint project between the European and Russian space agencies.

Rosalind Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to unravelling the double helix structure of our DNA. She also made enduring contributions to the study of coal, carbon and graphite. (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology)

Franklin, a chemist, used a technique called X-ray crystallography to map the location of atoms in crystals.

It's said that when American scientist James Watson saw Franklin's X-ray crystallography image of DNA, he immediately realized he and English scientist Francis Crick were right about its double-helix structure and published their findings.

Nine years later, in 1962, Watson, Crick and Franklin's boss, Maurice Wilkins, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Franklin never went further with her research. She developed cancer and died at age 37.