Science & technology
Mars mission scientist Colin Pillinger dies aged 70
Publish Date: May 09, 2014
Mars mission scientist Colin Pillinger dies aged 70
Colin Pillinger at Jodrell Bank in 2009. He has died at the age of 70. PHOTO/Mike Peel
  • mail
  • img
newvision

LONDON - British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, the driving force behind the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, died on Thursday at the age of 70, his family said.

The professor, hailed by his colleagues as an inspirational figure with boundless enthusiasm for his subject, suffered a brain haemorrhage on Wednesday.

"It is with profound sadness that we are telling friends and colleagues that Colin, whilst sitting in the garden yesterday afternoon, suffered a severe brain haemorrhage resulting in a deep coma," his family said.

The father of two was taken to a hospital near his home in Cambridge, eastern England, and died peacefully on Thursday afternoon.

"We ask that all respect our privacy at this devastating and unbelievable time," his family said.

Pillinger, who cut a distinctive figure with his mutton-chop whiskers, studied in Wales and began his career at the US space agency NASA, analysing samples of moon rock on the Apollo programme.

But he won fame for his lead role in developing Beagle 2, a British lander that rode piggy-back to Mars aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express in 2003.

Named after Charles Darwin's ship HMS Beagle, it was shaped like a giant pocket watch and opened to reveal solar panels, a robotic arm and research equipment designed to search for signs of life.

It should have landed on the red planet on Christmas Day 2003 but never made contact with Earth. A later investigation concluded that it probably burned up in the atmosphere of Mars.

In the early days and weeks after it disappeared, Pillinger remained relentlessly optimistic and his terrier-like enthusiasm made him a popular figure on British television.

Pillinger was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, and the same year stepped down from his role as head of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) which he had founded at the Open University.

But while the MS left him with difficulty walking, he continued working in space science and remained hopeful of attempts to get to Mars, saying "we have unfinished business" on the planet.

He had been involved in the ESA's Rosetta project, a mission to orbit and land on a comet which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

"Colin was driven by science but especially the will to establish whether Mars had, has or could have sustained life," said Professor David Southwood, president of the Royal Astronomical Society and Pillinger's friend.

"That will was expressed in enthusiasm, wit and tireless work and was infectious. He touched many lives and careers. He will be much missed."

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
NASA spacecraft to begin orbiting Mars within days
An unmanned NASA spacecraft launched last year to study the history of climate change on Mars is to begin orbiting the Red Planet on Sunday after a 10-month journey....
Amazon unveils new Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers
Amazon.com on Wednesday expanded its array of tablets and Kindle e-readers, capping its line-up with a new flagship Fire HDX boasting 'stunning' display and Dolby Atmos sound....
Number of websites explodes past a billion
The number of websites has burst above one billion and is growing apace, according to figures updated in real time Tuesday by online tracker Internet Live Stats....
New Apple mobile software arrives
New-generation Apple software for powering its coveted mobile devices is set for release on Wednesday, two days ahead of the arrival of its latest iPhones....
Sony warns of $2.14 bn annual loss, blames mobile unit
Sony on Wednesday said it would lose $2.14 billion this fiscal year, more than four times its earlier forecast as the Japanese electronics giant blamed a downturn in its mobile phone business....
Highway Africa 2014 discusses social media
The time is now. Yes it’s time. In the new era of digital and convergence in journalism, social media can no longer be on the margins. Where should it be now? This crucial question was answered at a recent 18th edition of Highway Africa conference....
Should bride price be made optional?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter