Beagle 2 - Search for Life on Mars
Beagle 2, a 60kg spacecraft named to honour the ship which carried Charles Darwin on his Voyage of Discovery is the lander of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission which will visit Mars in 2003. The spacecraft is dedicated to the study of exobiology, geochemistry and atmospheric science on Mars. It will investigate in situ to reveal whether life processes have occurred on the planet and search for evidence of present day life.
The Beagle 2 project is led by Professor Colin Pillinger who is Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University and formerly Gresham Professor of Astronomy in the City of London. He has a long career in extraterrestrial sample analysis and is a leading member of the European community studying meteorites.
Colin Pillinger (d.o.b. 9.5.43) was made Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University in 1991 having formerly held senior research positions at the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge before joining the OU in 1984. He heads the recently expanded Planetary and Space Science Research Institute. He holds B.Sc (1965) and Ph.D. (1968) degrees from the University of Wales and a D.Sc. (1984) from the University of Bristol, all in Chemistry.
He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in (1993) and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS) (1981), the Meteoritical Society (1986), the Royal Geographical Society (1993) and a member of the British Mass Spectrometry Society (1981) and the I.A.U. (1993). He was Gresham Professor of Astronomy in the City of London in (1996 - 2000). Pillinger began his career in extraterrestrial sample analysis as part of the NASA Apollo Programme with Co-I and then PI status for lunar sample work. He was appointed PI for the ESA International Rosetta Mission to the Comet Wirtanen. He is currently on a committee of experts advising ESA on its future exploration programme. He is involved in the NASA Discovery Mission, Genesis, to collect a sample of the solar wind and European Space Agency missions to investigate meteorite erosion effects in Space.
A major part of his research interests concerns the design and construction of high sensitivity stable isotope ratio mass spectrometers for research on meteorites. The static vacuum instruments he developed led to the discovery of interstellar diamonds, graphite and silicon carbide in primitive chondrites: they have been used for many other applications involving particular martian meteorites and terrestrial samples. Pillinger is a leading member of the European meteoritics community and was Chairman of EUROMET, the consortium set up to recover new meteorites and cosmic dust from Antarctica and hot deserts.
He is the leader of the Beagle 2 project, which will land a spacecraft dedicated to exobiology, geochemistry and atmospheric science on Mars to seek evidence for past and present life as part of ESA's Mars Express Mission.
His publications record consists of more than 500 scientific contributions, full papers, abstracts and communication concerning public awareness of science and he is a regular contributor to TV and radio. He leads the public communication programme for Beagle 2, which results in a considerable demand from both media and public for interviews, lectures and television appearances.