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EditorialsUpFront 02/21

UpFront 02/21

Trying to get away from a Covid dominated world it was good to recently follow up on the story of NASA’s robot on Mars. Back in July they had announced that the latest drill area would be named after local legend Mary Anning. Announcing the decision on their website, one NASA planetary geologist said it was ‘particularly special’. She described how Mary Anning spent her life ‘scouring the seaside cliffs near Lyme Regis’ for fossils. And how she uncovered ‘innumerable samples, most notably the first full Ichthyosaur and the first Plesiosaur.’ The writer went on to explain how Mary’s gender and societal status ‘led her ground-breaking work and discoveries to be dismissed by the scientific establishment or, worse, appropriated by men.’ She hoped their planetary exploration might remind us to be vigilant in ensuring that, in future, credit goes where credit is due. ‘Let Mary Anning’s name on Mars remind us to include everyone in the endeavour of exploration’ she said. The most recent news from the drill was in November when the NASA robot took a selfie at the Mary Anning site. It was made by stitching together 59 images—not quite as simple as those taken by Instagrammers on Lyme’s famous pier but pretty spectacular all the same. In March, the film Ammonite is due to be released in the UK. The story highlights Mary Anning’s achievements but the main story is the fictional relationship between Anning, played by Kate Winslet, and Charlotte Murchison, who is played by Saoirse Ronan. There has never been any evidence of the affair depicted in the film but it is still the main story line. Whether that distorts history and distracts from her scientific achievements remains to be seen. For the moment though, her impact on other planets, especially if they are over 30 million miles away, seems to be a good alternative to what’s going on here.

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