ESA Mars rover named after Rosalind Franklin, brilliant DNA pioneer

Franklin, who died in 1958, helped us understand the molecular makeup of DNA and RNA.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
Exomars PHASE B1 8.05.2008

This illustration shows the ExoMars rover on Mars.


Rosalind Franklin the Mars rover is scheduled to explore the Red Planet in 2021. 

The UK Space Agency announced the official name of the ExoMars rover on Thursday after running a naming contest in 2018. A panel selected the final name out of 36,000 responses in an effort to avoid a Marsy McMarsface issue.

"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," British MP Chris Skidmore said.

Franklin was a biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer. She was the subject of a 2013 Google Doodle that highlighted her contributions to our understanding of the molecular makeup of DNA and RNA. She died in 1958 and her work was more widely recognized after her death.

ExoMars is a joint mission from the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos. The team already has an orbiter in residence at the Red Planet. 

The rover is under development in the UK. It's designed to roam the planet, investigate Mars geology and seek out organic material.

"It's fitting that the robot bearing her name will search for the building blocks of life on Mars, as she did so on Earth through her work on DNA," said Alice Bunn, international director of the UK Space Agency.

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