Leicester researchers pay tribute to Professor Colin Pillinger

Posted by pt91 at May 08, 2014 02:50 PM |
Space scientist behind Beagle 2 mission remembered by Leicester colleagues

We have learnt, with great regret, of the death of Professor Colin Pillinger. Professor Pillinger was the driving force behind the Beagle 2 Mars mission launched in 2003, which a number of University of Leicester academics were heavily involved in.

Emeritus Professor Alan Wells, who worked for many years with Professor Pillinger, has written a tribute to the well-known planetary scientist.

University of Leicester Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Barstow, who is Head of the College of Science and Engineering and President-elect of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “I was shocked and very sad to learn of Colin's death this morning. He was a truly larger than life character who was a tremendous advocate for planetary science in the UK.

"In having the vision to develop the Beagle 2 lander programme, the first UK-led probe to land on another planet, he can be credited with transforming planetary science in the UK. Although, sadly, the landing was eventually unsuccessful, its impetus left a lasting legacy from which the current excellence and high profile of planetary science at Leicester and in the UK beyond has emerged.

"Colin's commitment to engagement with the public and the strong public interest generated in Beagle 2 also benefited the wider space and astronomy programme by raising its profile in Government, helping secure long term funding and a recognition of the importance of this science to the UK. I always enjoyed Colin's stimulating company and will personally miss him. However, this is a wider, and untimely, loss to the whole of UK space science.”

Dr Paul Abel of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, and a regular presenter on the BBC's Sky at Night programme, said: "I was rather saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Colin Pillinger this morning.  Many will know of Colin due to work with the Beagle 2 mission- a bold pioneering adventure aimed at searching the Martian sands for evidence of life.  As well as being a much respected planetary scientist, he was also a great communicator of science and a unique delivery and style.  When the controversial discovery of potential fossils of bacterial like life forms was made in the Martian meteorite ALH 84001, Colin appeared on the Sky at Night to passionately discuss the results. He will be sorely missed."

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