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Spend ‘An Hour on the Moon’ for the first Colin Pillinger Memorial Talk

Jon Culshaw and Colin Pillinger when filming for BBC's The Sky at Night in 2013

Paul Abel and Colin Pillinger analysing moon dust at the University of Bristol in the late 1960s

Press release issued: 21 September 2015

Bristol-born scientist Colin Pillinger, best known for leading the Beagle 2 mission to Mars, is to be remembered with an annual talk for the public.

Professor Colin Pillinger CBE FRS, who was born and educated in Kingswood, started his scientific career as part of the University of Bristol team analysing the Apollo lunar samples.

He went on to spend four decades analysing, writing and talking about extraterrestrial objects - a famed career which found tantalising evidence of life on Mars.

The University of Bristol is working with his family to host the first Colin Pillinger Memorial Talk on 25 November, featuring leading speakers from the world of space exploration and astronomy.

Impressionist, comedian and amateur astronomer Jon Culshaw will host 'An Hour on the Moon', an illustrated discussion about our fascination with the Moon and the exploration - past and future - of our nearest neighbour in space.

Colin's widow Judith, who he met at the University of Bristol, said: "It is very fitting that we are able to hold the event in the city he loved. Colin was always ready to share his enjoyment of science with the public and we hope this annual lecture will carry on his legacy."

Speaking at the talk in the Wills Memorial Building is Dr Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Dr James Carpenter from the European Space Agency, and author Peter Cadogan who worked on the Apollo samples in Bristol.

Additionally in Colin's memory, pupils at Kings Oak Academy, formerly Kingswood Grammar School where Colin went to school, will hear from a high profile scientist as part of plans to inspire young people to learn about space science and exploration.

Dr Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project scientist from the European Space Agency, will give a talk to the school on the Rosetta comet mission - a project that Colin played a pivotal role in.

  • 'An Hour on the Moon', 6.30pm in the Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building, on 25 November. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets must be booked in advance. More information is available on the Public and Ceremonial Events website.

Further information

About Professor Colin Pillinger

Professor Pillinger made more than a thousand contributions to scientific literature, and also found time to be one of Britain's foremost science communicators, contributing dozens of popular articles in newspapers and magazines as well as giving hundreds of public lectures.

He has close links with Bristol having been born in Kingswood in 1943 and educated locally until embarking on a Chemistry degree at University College Swansea, where he went on to achieve a PhD in Mass Spectrometry. He subsequently returned to the city as a Research Associate at the University of Bristol from 1968 to 1976, working as part of a team analysing the Apollo lunar samples.

Professor Pillinger is best known as being the principal investigator for the Beagle 2 Mars lander project, part of European Space Agency's 2003 Mars Express mission. He conceived the Beagle 2 mission after analysing a number of meteorites from Mars and finding exciting evidence suggesting existence of life there.

Beagle 2 was last seen leaving the Mars Express orbiter that carried it to Mars. It was due to land on the planet a few days later on Christmas Day 2003 but no communications were ever established. After 12 years of not knowing what happened to Beagle 2, high resolution cameras on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) imaged the lander on the surface of the planet pretty much where it was expected to touch down. Work is continuing to study images which suggest that the solar panels did not completely deploy thus shielding the communications antenna.

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