Colin Pillinger

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Colin Pillinger
Colin Pillinger.jpg
Born (1943-05-09) 9 May 1943 (age 70)
Kingswood, South Gloucestershire, England
Nationality British
Fields Planetary science
Institutions The Open University
University of Cambridge
Alma mater University College of Swansea
Known for Failure of Beagle 2
Analyzing Apollo lunar samples[1]

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.[2]

Early life[edit]

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.[3] His father, Alfred, was a manual worker for the Gas Board and his mother, Florence (née Honour), was a housewife.[1][3] 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).[3] He described himself as "I was a disaster as a science student".[4]

Career and recognition[edit]

Beagle 2[edit]

Pillinger's first job was for NASA, analysing the lunar samples brought back by Apollo 11;[1] 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.[1] 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.[5]


Main belt asteroid 15614 Pillinger was named after Pillinger.[6]

Speaking career[edit]

Pillinger works as a conference and after-dinner speaker for the JLA agency.[7]


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.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Pillinger's wife, Judith, is also a scientist and they met working in the same laboratory.[1] They have a son and a daughter.[3]

After experiencing difficulty with walking for two years, Pillinger was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis in May 2005.[9] 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.[1] He owns a pet dog and appreciates the welcome and affection it gives.[1]


Chronology of qualifications, career, and awards:[3]


See also[edit]


External links[edit]