A PIONEERING space scientist and Swansea University graduate has passed away following a sudden illness.
Professor Colin Pillinger, best known for his involvement in Britain's Beagle 2 Mars mission, has died aged 70 following a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge.
The professor, who was awarded the CBE in 2003 for his work on the Mars Express mission, later died in hospital.
His family told the BBC his death was “devastating and unbelievable”.
A Swansea university spokesperson said: “We are saddened to hear of the death of Swansea University graduate and scientist Professor Colin Pillinger.
“Our thoughts are with Professor Pillinger’s family at this time and we extend our condolences for their loss.”
Professor Pillinger played a lead role in the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, which was supposed to land on the planet on Christmas Day 2003 and search for signs of life, but vanished without a trace.
Despite many attempts to contact the probe, it has not been heard from since.
Alex James, a member of the band Blur was a friend of the professor and helped finance some of his work.
He said: “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.”