Colin Pillinger (1943-2014)

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    Richard Miles

    Very sad to read of the passing of Colin Pillinger. Thanks to Paul Abel for the write-up.

    Colin has been one of the most prominent figures in planetary science in the UK for many decades. Had some good conversations with him on the occasion of last September’s European Planetary Science Congress at University College London when, despite his MS, he was in good form. So it comes as a shock that he has suddenly passed away.

    I first came across him in 1970 when he was a post-doc working with Geoffrey Eglinton at the University of Bristol. Colin was working on Apollo lunar samples, which were pretty exciting so soon after the first manned landing. His 1970-1974 time in the Chemistry department at Bristol coincided with my first degree studies. With many of the chemistry staff being local folk sporting fine West Country accents, Colin fitted in perfectly. It’s a shame we shalln’t hear that marvellous voice of his again with all those stories he had to tell.

    A great pity also that he won’t be around to witness the soon-to-be success of the Rosetta probe to Comet 67P/C-G. He was telling me that he happened to be in at the very start (1984?) at JPL when a meeting was held there – it was the beginning of the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby (CRAF) mission planning. That plan morphed several times eventually to become the Europe-led Rosetta mission.

    RIP Prof. Pillinger

    Richard Miles





    Yes, I shall miss that accent. I worked with Colin to help with an exhibition he was doing on the history of Mars exploration, in the year prior to Beagle II (2002) and then provided groundbased support while Beagle II was about to land. By chance (but not unexpectedly for the martian season) a regional dust storm arose in a nearby part of the planet in 2003 December, and caused Colin some anxious moments. Unable to get images from NASA or elsewhere in real time, he did announce that he had ‘phoned up Richard McKim’ for his Mars weather reports! It was easy for me to follow the planet from my garden, and then to give him a call. And of course I received images from around the world to add in to the picture. In the end, we shall never know for certain whether the dust storm or some other factor was the reason for the demise of Beagle II. Colin was a great British scientist and we are definitely the poorer for his untimely passing.


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