The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that its ExoMars rover will be named in honour of British chemist Rosalind Franklin. Once on the surface of the Red Planet, the Rosalind Franklin rover will be tasked with searching for the building blocks of life.
The rover’s name was selected from over 36,000 submissions from the agency’s 22 member states. The submissions were part of a competition launched by the UK Space Agency in July last year. Rosalind Franklin was selected for her contributions to our understanding of the molecular structure of DNA.
“This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore. Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA,” explained ESA Director General Jan Woerner. “Rosalind the rover captures this spirit and carries us all to the forefront of space exploration.”
The Rosalind Franklin is being developed and built by Airbus Defense and Space. It will be launched aboard a Russian Proton rocket on July 25, 2020, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Several months later on March 19, 2021, the rover will, with any luck, touch down on the Oxia Planum plain on the surface of Mars.
Once on the surface of Mars, the Rosalind Franklin will begin science operations. As the rover is a joint venture between the ESA and the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS, it carries a number of scientific payloads from both agencies. In addition to the Panoramic Camera System (PanCam), one of the more notable inclusions is a 2-meter long drill designed to collect core samples approximately 1 centimetre in diameter.
In addition to the core sampler, the Rosalind Franklin carries the Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Information on Mars (WISDOM), Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM), Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-Miss), the Close-Up Imager (CLUPI), and the Pasteur Instrument Suite. The Pasteur Instrument Suite is comprised of the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA), MicrOmega-IR, and the Raman Laster Spectrometer (RLS).
Additional scientific instruments have been proposed and the current lineup is subject to change and may already be out of date.