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New Mars rover named after DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin

AFP  |  Stevenage(United Kingdom) 

A British-made that will set off for next year in search for signs of life was named Thursday after pioneer Franklin.

UK revealed the name of the first European scavenger of the Red Planet at the factory just north of where it was built.

Cambridge-educated Franklin "helped us understand life on Earth and now her namesake will do the same on Mars," UK said at the unveiling.

The brilliant, but long-unrecognised, 20th century British scientist's name was selected with the help of a public competition in which nearly 36,000 took part.

"Just as Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope 'the Rover' will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come," said Skidmore.

Franklin's work was used to formulate the seminal 1953 hypothesis about the structure of -- the molecule containing an organism's

She died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1958.

The three men who were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on four years later did not mention Franklin in their acceptance speeches. Franklin's contribution to their research remained largely overlooked in science books until the 1990s.

The new is planned to land on in 2021 as part of the ExoMars programme which is being conducted jointly by the (ESA) and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos.

It follows in the tracks of three similar missions conducted by the

The six-wheeler will be "looking for traces of life beyond Earth," said

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

The new will try to answer that question by drilling two metres into the hot planet's surface to sample and analyse the soil.

It will use solar power to drive around with the help of optic sensors.

Scientists said it will have a degree of "intelligence" that allows it to make some rudimentary decisions on its own.

The rover will first undergo a series of stern tests to make sure it can survive extreme temperatures and vibrations endured in a journey that takes it more than 55 million kilometres from Earth.

UK engineers finished building the European space explorer at a delicate political time.

Britain is due to end its 46-year involvement in the at the end of March.

Relations between the two sides are strained and cooperation on major projects such as space exploration is under review.

Britain has already been kicked of the EU's Galileo because of Brexit.

The rover was built by the British-based defence and space unit of the pan-European corporation.

Its high-resolution 3D camera was built by London's space science lab.

And the in England worked on Rosalind's and

"This is a big moment for British science," Skidmore said.

"Although we are leaving the European union, we are not leaving

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 07 2019. 20:45 IST