Well my old heart skipped a beat or two today when I learned that Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had taken images showing that Beagle 2 had landed safely on Mars some 11 years ago, and had failed to function only because one of the solar-power petals had failed to deploy. Somewhere up there, there’s the soul of Britain’s most famous rocket scientist looking down and smiling today.
I had a recent message from my favourite (I know lots of them) space scientist Prof Colin Pillinger. Colin was head of the Beagle 2 project to put a vehicle onto the surface of Mars to search for evidence of life. By an extraordinary feat of effort, drive and personal commitment Colin got the largely British-built Beagle probe built, launched and transported over 6 months through the solar system to the red planet in time for its Xmas day landing, and then the transmissions stopped.