At Jodrell Bank Observatory in 2009
9 May 1943 |
Kingswood, South Gloucestershire, England
|Institutions||The Open University
University of Cambridge
|Alma mater||University College of Swansea|
|Known for||Failure of Beagle 2
Analyzing Apollo lunar samples
Colin Trevor Pillinger, CBE, (born in Kingswood, just outside Bristol on 9 May 1943) is a former planetary scientist at the Open University in the UK. He was the principal investigator for the British failed Beagle 2 Mars lander project, and has worked on a group of Martian meteorites.
Pillinger was born on 9 May 1943 in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire, just outside Bristol, England, where he was brought up with his sister who was six years older. His father, Alfred, was a manual worker for the Gas Board and his mother, Florence (née Honour), was a housewife. He attended Kingswood Grammar School, and later graduated with a BSc and a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University College of Swansea (now called Swansea University). He described himself as "I was a disaster as a science student".
Career and recognition
Pillinger's first job was for NASA, analysing the lunar samples brought back by Apollo 11; but he is best known for being the principal investigator for the failed Beagle 2 Mars lander project, part of European Space Agency's (ESA) 2003 Mars Express mission. It was Pillinger's wife who thought of the "Beagle 2" name for the project. The reason for the failure of the mission has not been determined, though the commission pointed blame towards Pillinger's management of the overall project as a contributed factor in the failure.
Pillinger works as a conference and after-dinner speaker for the JLA agency.
In 2003 Pillinger appeared on famous TV programme Top Gear (in episode 7 of the season) as a participant in the "Top Gear boffin burn-out!" challenge, with Brian Sewell and Professor Heinz Wolff, to see who could do a wheel burn-out in a tuned 480BHP Nissan 300ZX. Pillinger won.
In August 2012 Pillinger stated that he was "annoyed" by how many technicians monitored Curiosity's successful landing on Mars because he only had four technicians for his own failed mission, Beagle 2.
After experiencing difficulty with walking for two years, Pillinger was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis in May 2005. He owned a dairy farm, but his illness prevented him from doing physical work on the farm, such as digging the ground and mucking out the cows. He owns a pet dog and appreciates the welcome and affection it gives.
Chronology of qualifications, career, and awards:
- 1965B.Sc (Chemistry) from University College of Swansea –
- 1968Ph.D (Chemistry) from University College of Swansea –
- 1968Post-doctoral fellow, University of Bristol Department of Chemistry –
- 1974Research Associate, Cambridge University –
- 1976Senior Research Associate, Department of Earth Science, University of Cambridge –
- 1981Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society –
- 1981member of the British Mass Spectrometry Society –
- 1984Honorary D.Sc (Chemistry) from University of Bristol –
- 1984Senior Research Fellow, Department of Earth Science, Open University –
- 1986Fellow of the Meteoritical Society –
- 1991made Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University –
- 1993member of the IAU –
- 1993Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society –
- 1993elected a Fellow of the Royal Society –
- 1996Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in the City of London (until 2000) –
- 2003made a CBE –
- 2003Top Gear boffin burn-out 1st place. –
- 2011recipient of the Michael Faraday Prize – 
- My Life on Mars - The Beagle 2 Diaries (2010) ISBN 978-0-9506597-3-2
- Space is a Funny Place
- Beagle - from Sailing Ship to Mars Spacecraft (2003) ISBN 978-0-571-22323-7
- "Desert Island Discs with Colin Pillinger". Desert Island Discs. 2009-10-25. BBC. Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ncwp6.
- Michael Hanlon (2004). The real Mars. Basic Books. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-4050-3639-9.
- "Biography". Pillinger's personal website. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
- JPL Small-Body Database Browser on 15614 Pillinger
- Ghosh, Pallab (2005-07-18). "Red Planet scientist battles MS". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
- "Royal Society - Michael Faraday Prize retrieved 4 February 2012".
- "Books". Colin Pillinger. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- Colin Pillinger at the Internet Movie Database
- Official site.
- Beagle 2 - in conversation with Colin Pillinger from a talk at the Royal Society