QUOTE (CosmicRocker @ Nov 19 2006, 04:51 AM)
hendric: I don't remember the story about the rover comments Colin was apologetic about. Could you summarize the story in a few words?
As I remember it...
Basically, in the run-up to that amazing Christmas of 2003, with Beagle and the MERs screaming towards Mars like an invasion fleet from Earth, Beagle 2's Colin Pillinger - well-known for not exactly being the personification of tact and subtlety, but a great guy who has a fire in his belly for Mars and almost single-handedly got the Beagle mission designed, funded and built, fighting off threats to it from all sides along the way - got rather p'd off with constant comparisons between his "Plucky little Beagle" and the two great hulking clanking American rovers. Much of the media seemed to think that the MERs were also going to look for life, and that US and UK 'boffins' were in a race to find life on Mars. During one interview someone asked Colin The Question about if he thought the MERs would find life on Mars just once too often, and he replied "They're not going to look for life, they're going sightseeing
Talk about poking fate in the eye with a sharp stick.
Of course, we all know how it turned out. Beagle 2 detached from Mars Observer and descended to Mars... then who knows what happened. Many of us Mars enthusiasts here in the UK spent all Christmas Day and much of the next few days checking every TV news, every radio news, Ceefax and teletext and every website we could find hoping to hear good news, but it never came, and by the time Spirit and Oppy boinged to their perfect landings in Gusev and Meridiani a month or so later, Beagle's mission was just a memory in the media, who took more pleasure in describing the mission's financial failings and behind-the-scenes political squabbling than the great achievement it represented. Many people who had scrabbled to be associated with it as it approached Mars now ran away from it so fast there were sonic booms, it was quite shameful, and I'm sure Colin P remains quite hurt and bitter about it today. Just my opinion tho.
So, going back to your question, why the apology? Well, when Beagle failed to bark home, Steve S - who would have been pretty much forgiven for picking up the phone and laughing into it, after what CP had said - was the first to call CP and commiserate with him and encourage him not to give up hope. And later, when Spirit and Oppy drove off their landing platforms and onto the martian surface Steve didn't crow once about how Beagle had failed and his rovers had succeeded, he didn't once make a quip about "sightseeing"... Instead, what did he do? he named Beagle Crater partly in honour of the Beagle probe. Just one reason why I respect and admire the man so much.
Here's a Squyres snippet from a press conference given on the morning after Spirit's landing:"One last thing. I got a congratulatory call from Beagle 2 Colin Pillinger. They're still holding out hope of contacting Beagle 2. I haven't given up on Beagle 2. I told him that "a whole bunch of people on this side of the Atlantic are rooting for you."
That's class, you know?
...so at the start of the OU lecture you hear a very sheepish but also very genuinely moved CP introducing Steve to the audience, and apologising for his comments.
Not exactly "a few words" hendric, sorry!