Beagle 2 kept the British Nation on the edge of its seat at Christmas 2003. This is Colin Pillinger’s story and the full previously undisclosed, account of the Beagle 2 mission in a hardback book of 358 pages.
Colin came from what can only be described as an underprivileged background; he was born on 9 May 1943 in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire, just outside Bristol. His father, Alfred, a manual worker for the Gas Board, and his mother, Florence (née Honour), also had a daughter who was six years older than Colin. He attended Kingswood Grammar School, and later graduated with a BSc and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from University College of Swansea (now Swansea University); ending with the Apollo programme to lead the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars. In 1996 he gathered around him an unlikely team consisting of the rock band Blur, and the artist Damien Hirst, which he combined with top university scientists and engineers from the satellite industry, designed a space craft on the back of a beer mat, built it in a garage and set off 250 million miles to answer one of life’s ultimate questions: “Are we alone in the Universe?”
When he died on 7 May 2014, he was an established English planetary scientist and a founding member of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at Open University in Milton Keynes. During his 40 year career he was one of Britain’s foremost science communicators whose interests included designing unique instruments to analyse extraterrestrial samples.