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British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, best known for his 2003 attempt to land a spacecraft on Mars, has died aged 70, his family have said, reports BBC.
Prof Pillinger was at his home in Cambridge when he suffered a brain haemorrhage and fell into a deep coma. His family said he later died at Addenbrooke's Hospital without regaining consciousness. His death was "devastating and unbelievable", they said in a statement.
Dr David Parker, the chief executive of the UK Space Agency, led the tributes. He told the BBC that Prof Pillinger had played a critical role in raising the profile of the British space programme and had inspired "young people to dream big dreams".
He was best-known for the 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, reports SkyNews.
It was last spotted heading for Mars on December 19, after separating from its European Space Agency mothership. He became a professor in interplanetary science at the Open University in 1991.
He began his career at Nasa, analysing samples of moon rock on the Apollo programme, and earned several other qualifications during his career. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005.