British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, the driving force behind the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, died on Thursday at the age of 70, his family said.
The professor, hailed by his colleagues as an inspirational figure with boundless enthusiasm for his subject, suffered a brain haemorrhage on Wednesday.
“It is with profound sadness that we are telling friends and colleagues that Colin, whilst sitting in the garden yesterday afternoon, suffered a severe brain haemorrhage resulting in a deep coma,” his family said.
The father of two was taken to a hospital near his home in Cambridge, eastern England, and died peacefully on Thursday afternoon.
“We ask that all respect our privacy at this devastating and unbelievable time,” his family said.
Pillinger, who cut a distinctive figure with his mutton-chop whiskers, studied in Wales and began his career at the US space agency NASA, analysing samples of moon rock on the Apollo programme.
But he won fame for his lead role in developing Beagle 2, a British lander that rode piggy-back to Mars aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express in 2003.
Named after Charles Darwin’s ship HMS Beagle, it was shaped like a giant pocket watch and opened to reveal solar panels, a robotic arm and research equipment designed to search for signs of life.
It should have landed on the red planet on Christmas Day 2003 but never made contact with Earth. A later investigation concluded that it probably burned up in the atmosphere of Mars.
In the early days and weeks after it disappeared, Pillinger remained relentlessly optimistic and his terrier-like enthusiasm made him a popular figure on British television.
Pillinger was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, and the same year stepped down from his role as head of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) which he had founded at the Open University.
But while the MS left him with difficulty walking, he continued working in space science and remained hopeful of attempts to get to Mars, saying “we have unfinished business” on the planet.
He had been involved in the ESA’s Rosetta project, a mission to orbit and land on a comet which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
“Colin was driven by science but especially the will to establish whether Mars had, has or could have sustained life,” said Professor David Southwood, president of the Royal Astronomical Society and Pillinger’s friend.
“That will was expressed in enthusiasm, wit and tireless work and was infectious. He touched many lives and careers. He will be much missed.”
Michael Moore breaks down why Trump is ‘scared’ of The Squad: ‘They’re the force out there!’
Legendary filmmaker Michael Moore revealed why President Donald Trump is so scared of the women of color in Congress known as The Squad.
The Squad is made up of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
"So, Michael, when your political opposition tells you this is the play we’re going to run and the president underscores it, and they’re running this play, is there any — is The Squad blameless for giving the president a steady stream of oxygen and ammunition?" MSNBC's Brian Williams asked.
"I’m so glad he’s that frightened of them, both he and [Benjamin] Netanyahu are scared of them. And the reason they are is — and this is why Trump isn’t as dumb as he comes off," Moore said.
Trump has spent his vacation golfing, watching cable TV — and panicking about a recession: AP
While President Donald Trump has been able to golf frequently while on vacation in New Jersey, he may not return to DC well-rested.
"Trump has spent much of the week at his New Jersey golf club, many of his mornings on the links, his afternoons watching cable television and his evenings calling confidants and business executives to get their take on the market’s volatility," the Associated Press reported Friday.
"Though he has expressed private worries about Wall Street, he is also skeptical about some of the weaker economic indicators, wondering if the media and establishment figures are manipulating the data to make him look bad, according to two Republicans close to the White House, not authorized to discuss private conversations," the AP noted.
Rick Wilsons destroys Trump for ’punitive ‘dickishness’ and ‘performative assh*lery’ on HBO’s Real Time
Republican strategist Rick Wilson slammed the Trump administration on HBO's "Real Time" with Bill Maher on Friday.
Wilson is the author of the 2018 book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever.
The GOP consultant said America needs to replace the "Goddamn oil lobbyist who runs the f*cking EPA right now."
"This is just punitive dickishness by these people," Wilson charged. "They're just doing this to be *ssholes, they want their base to be like, 'we're taking those regulations away."
"It is just performative assh*lery," he added.