What is PanCam?
PanCam (Panoramic Camera) was initially designed to be part of the Rosalind Franklin Rover within the ExoMars mission led by the European Space Agency. After the mission began in 2005, the camera was designed and built to withstand harsh Martian conditions and look for signs of past life. The launch of the Rosalind Franklin Rover, scheduled for September 2022, was suspended due to ongoing geopolitical relations at this time. For more information please read this statement from the European Space Agency: https://www.esa.int/Newsroom/Press_Releases/ExoMars_suspended
PanCam being installed on the Rosalind Franklin Rover. Image credit: ESA/Airbus/M. Alexander
One of the two filter wheels onboard the PanCam instrument on the Rosalind Franklin Rover ready for integration.
Image credit: M. de la Nougerede, UCL/MSSL
The winning entry to the European Space Agency’s competition to name the ExoMars 2022 rover was Rosalind Franklin - after more than 36,000 entries. This is the latest in a long list of honours Rosalind has received since her early death aged just 37 in 1958.
Rosalind Elsie Franklin, born 1920, was a leading scientist who provided
crucial work leading to the structure of DNA. Born in London, she knew whilst
growing up she wanted to go into science and studied physical chemistry
at Cambridge University. Unfortunately, her time here coincided with World War
II and lost many of her mentors to the war effort. After graduating, in 1942
she began her PhD which was oriented towards the war effort, in particular
coal. She worked on the microstructures of coals and carbons. Rosalind was
the first to identify and measure molecular sieves in coal, and enabled
coals to be classified and performance predicted to high degrees of accuracy.
In 1945 she received her PhD in this area from Cambridge, along with five
Rosalind then went on to study carbons using x-ray diffraction analysis in Paris. Her work here earned her an international reputation among coal chemists, but she moved back to England in 1950, starting work at King’s College London to work on DNA. Working with Raymond Gosling, she was able to take clear x-ray diffraction photos of DNA and discovered two forms - wet and dry. Her analyses into these two structures allowed her to conclude in 1953 that both forms had two helices. Although this work wasn’t published at the time, Francis Crick and James Watson at Cambridge used Rosalind’s photographs to gain a crucial insight into DNA structure, and published their work in Nature that spring, with no acknowledgement to her work.
At this point, Rosalind had moved to Birkbeck College, London, to study plant viruses with x-ray diffraction studies. She worked on the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and revealed that the virus’ genetic material was embedded in the inner wall of it’s protective protein shell. Working internationally, she became an expert in virus structures and was recognised for this by the Royal Institution in 1956.
In 1956 Rosalind was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Over the next 18 months she underwent several forms of treatment, while continuing to work to an incredibly high standard. The cancer unfortunately took her life in April 1958, aged just 37.
Recognition for her work increased towards the end of her life, but the critical role she played in the discovery of DNA structure was not recognised during her lifetime. Only since then has Rosalind been celebrated, by numerous recognitions and awards, including the naming of the ExoMars rover. Her legacy continues to this day, and to quote Rosalind “science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated”.
Rosalind Franklin, 1920 - 1958
Oxia Planum, landing site of the Rosalind Franklin Rover. Image taken from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s high resolution camera. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
More information about the ExoMars mission can be found here:
More information about Rosalind Franklin and her work can be found here:
Location of all of the Mars rovers currently on Mars. Not including Rosalind Franklin. Image from the Planetary Society