Stevenage: A British-made robber who leaves Mars next year in search of signs of life was named Thursday after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.
The British astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name of the first European street sweeper of the Red Planet at the Airbus plant just north of London, where it was built.
Cambridge-educated Franklin "has helped us understand life on earth and now her namesake will do the same on Mars," said British science minister Chris Skidmore during the unveiling.
The brilliant but long-unrecognized 20th-century British scientist's name was chosen with the help of a public competition in which nearly 36,000 members participated.
"Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope that" Rosalind the Rover "will successfully sustain this exciting adventure, and will inspire generations of female scientists and engineers to come in, & # 39; Skidmore.
Franklin's work was used to formulate the primordial hypothesis of 1953 on the structure of DNA – the molecule that contains the genetic code of an organism.
She died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1958.
The three men who received the Nobel Prize four years later for their work on the DNA did not mention Franklin in their acceptance speech.
Franklin's contribution to their research remained largely overlooked in scientific books until the nineties.
The new rover is scheduled to land on Mars in 2021 as part of the ExoMars program jointly run by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos.
It follows in the tracks of three similar missions carried out by the United States.
The six-wheeler will "look for traces of life outside the earth," said ESA director David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration.
"Can we find primitive life on the red planet?" He asked.
– Great moment for Great Britain & # 39; –
The new rover will try to answer that question by drilling two meters (6.5 feet) in the surface of the hot planet to sample and analyze the soil.
It uses solar energy to drive around using optical sensors. Scientists say it will have a certain "intelligence" that makes it possible to make some rudimentary decisions in itself.
The rover will first undergo a series of rigorous tests to ensure that it can withstand extreme temperatures and vibrations during a journey that travels more than 55 million kilometers (35 million miles) from the earth.
British engineers completed the European space explorer in a delicate political time.
Britain ends its 46-year involvement with the European Union at the end of March.
Relations between the two parties are tense and cooperation on major projects such as space exploration is currently under review.
Britain has already kicked off the Galileo satellite navigation system of the EU because of Brexit.
The rover was built by the British defense and space unit of the pan-European Airbus company.
The high resolution 3D camera was built by the space laboratory at the University College in London.
And the University of Leicester in England worked on the electronics and data processing panel at Rosalind.
"This is a big time for British science," said Skidmore, the science minister.
"Although we leave the European Union, we do not leave ESA."