Rosalind Franklin was selected for her contributions to our understanding of the molecular structure of DNA.
In the wake of WWII, Franklin moved to Paris and studied x-ray crystallography, also known as x-ray diffraction analysis, which can pinpoint the position of atoms in a crystal.
"Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope "Rosalind the rover" will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come".
With this new ESA rover, Rosalind Franklin will finally get to perform scientific research again, at least in spirit.
A panel of experts has chosen Rosalind Franklin as the name for the European Space Agency's (ESA)'s upcoming Mars rover, which is now expected to begin exploring the Red Planet in 2021. The six-wheeled rover is expected to drill into the surface of Mars in its search for past and present alien life on Mars. "Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA", the agency's director general Jan Woerner said in the announcement.
ExoMars is a joint mission from the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos.
UK-built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin
The rover was built by the British-based defence and space unit of the pan-European Airbus corporation.
The ExoMars mission is already underway, and Rosalind the rover will join other spacecraft that have been deployed to the Red Planet.
"Although we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving ESA".
In November experts meeting at the National Space Centre in Leicester chose Oxia Planum near the Martian equator as the landing site for Rosalind due to its geology and the likelihood of finding signs of life. The ambition is for the United Kingdom be the world's most innovative economy - and the development of the ExoMars rover for the United Kingdom is a part of this ambition.
Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was critical to discovering the structure of DNA. Franklin never went further with her research. Her data was a part of the data used to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA.
Crick, Watson, and Maurice Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize for their work, but since Franklin died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, she could not be considered for the award. Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously, but it's unclear if Franklin would have been given credit at the time, anyway.