Italian astrophysicist Amalia Ercoli Finzi, born in 1937, had an incredible career in the field of space science and technology.
Amalia Ercoli Finzi was the first woman to graduate in Aeronautical Engineering in Italy. She worked as a professor and head of the Aerospace Engineering Department at the Politecnico di Milano, where she was the first woman in 139 years of history to inaugurate the academic year. She was the director of the Rosetta mission that, in 2014, brought a drill that she designed on a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth. Since she retired, Prof. Ercoli Finzi has worked as a consultant for NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
To honour Amalia Ercoli Finzi’s contribution to science, and to celebrate a career that is as brilliant as it was difficult for a woman of her time, ESA has decided to give her name to one of the two European Rovers that are part of the ExoMars 2022 mission.
ExoMars 2022 is a mission led collaboratively by the ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and its goal is to understand if life ever existed on Mars. The ExoMars rover mission is scheduled to launch in September 2022.
The Amalia Rover will remain on the ground during the mission, as a test model to help ESA’s engineers take decisions that will keep the “twin” rover safe in the challenging environment of Mars. The twin rover is named after Rosalind Franklin, an English chemist who was the first to photograph the double helix structure of DNA.
Both Rovers are still undergoing preparations at Italian manufacturer Thales Alenia Space‘s headquarters in Turin, where they were built, waiting for their mission to begin. In April, Rosalind will be moved to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the launch will take place.
“This is wonderful news, which honours me and which I hope will encourage other women scientists,” said Prof. Ercoli Finzi, who has always encouraged young women to take on careers in the science field. “It’s really nice that the two Rovers were named after two women. Rosalind was the victim of her colleagues and did not receive the recognition she deserved. I [the rover that was named after her, ed.] will remain on Earth to help her while she will be on Mars”.