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Blur star pays tribute to space scientist

Blur star James Credit: PA

Alex James from Blur, who worked with Prof Pillinger on the Beagle 2 project, has paid tribute to the scientist

The Essex musician-turned-farmer helped to finance the space project and the band created the probe's call sign.

"Colin had the rare gift of being able to make things that were complicated and ambitious seem simple and achievable. We need more scientists like that. He was unique, and I will miss him."

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Family: Pillinger death 'devastating and unbelievable'

The family of planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger told the BBC his death was "devastating and unbelievable".

Planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger died today aged 70. Credit: Johnny Green/PA Wire

The pioneering scientist, who was best known for the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, became a professor in interplanetary science at the Open University in 1991.

He also earned a host of other qualifications and numerous awards during his prestigious career.

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Prof Pillinger best known for ill-fated Mars mission

Planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who died today aged 70, was most famous for the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

Professor Colin Pillinger with the Beagle 2 landing craft in 2002. Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA Archive

The craft was supposed to land on the planet on Christmas Day 2003 and search for signs of life but vanished without a trace.

It was last seen heading towards the red planet on December 19 after separating from its European Space Agency mothership Mars Express.

Afterwards Prof Pillinger spoke of his frustration at the failed probe, and said there was nothing that should not have worked.

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Professor Colin Pillinger suffered brain haemorrhage

Pioneering scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who was the driving force behind Britain's Mars lander Beagle 2, suffered a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge.

Pioneering scientist Professor Colin Pillinger. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive

The professor, who was awarded the CBE in 2003, later died in hospital, a spokesman said.

Stevenage sandpit helps test rovers on a mission to Mars

by Stuart Leithes

A giant sandpit in a warehouse in Stevenage, Hertfordshire is helping in the vital research into space missions to the planet Mars.

A newly-enlarged test area has been opened at Airbus Defence and Space to put Mars rover vehicles through their paces.

The Mars Yard, which is now 30 metres by 13 metres, will be used to fully develop the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover mission due to be launched in 2018.

Click below to watch a report from ITV News Anglia's Stuart Leithes

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