Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-74)|
5 JULY 2004
Q60 Chairman: Was it a major factor?
Professor Pillinger: When we actually
asked for that to be upped to 68, after the Casani review, we
did not get a decision on that request, and so we were for ever
after that pointthis was where it was worsebelieving
that if we put another ounce on this spacecraft, we would get
bounced off; and so we did not feel as though we could ask for
Q61 Chairman: But it was a handicap.
Professor Pillinger: It is always
a handicap. Mass is the only thing you have got to
Q62 Chairman: You will know there has
been a restricted report by a committee of inquiry. I do not know
what you know about it or what you think about it. Can you tell
me? We have been given the privilege of seeing it but under stringent
Professor Pillinger: We have been
briefed on the recommendations and background to how the recommendations
were arrived at. On this side of the House we participated and
co-operated with the review 100%. We allowed total insight into
Q63 Chairman: So why is it not being
published, in your view, and should it be published?
Professor Pillinger: You should
ask the people who
Q64 Chairman: I am asking you, Colin.
Professor Pillinger: I do not
know why it is not being published. My view would have been to
be totally open. I come from an organisation that has a name that
is synonymous with openness.
Q65 Chairman: We know the people to ask,
is what you are saying"do it". You would be happy
to see it.
Professor Pillinger: I am quite
happy to see anything. If it criticises me, I am quite happy to
answer it. What the team really wantednever mind about
whether it is published or notwas to sit down with this
committee and discuss how they reached their recommendations.
Q66 Chairman: That is why I asked you
if you were happy with the committee of inquiry report.
Professor Pillinger: No, the team
on this side would really like to sit down and discuss how those
conclusions were reached, so that we could say, "we did not
do that; we agree we did not do that, but we did this."
Q67 Chairman: Why do you think they are
hiding it up, then?
Professor Pillinger: You have
to ask the people who
Q68 Chairman: Okay.
Dr Healy: There are two things
to say on the report. Even though we engaged 100%, that was in
total six days of the commission talking to the team at various
different points over a three-month period, so there is not a
great deal of interaction theresix days over three months.
We did not get the opportunity to understand what is in the report,
other than the recommendations that have come out in it. If they
have done some other work, if they have come up with some good
reasons, we just do not know what they are and
Q69 Chairman: Let me put it to you that
if it caused embarrassment to the ESA if it had been publishedwould
you surmise on that?
Professor Pillinger: If it caused
embarrassment to somebody and I felt it was unjustified, I would
defend them in the same way as I would defend anybody in this
team, because I think most people working on this project did
their very best to get this spacecraft to Mars.
Q70 Mr McWalter: When you say that potentially
it looks like the thinness of the Martian atmosphere that was
obviously, as it were, against you, is your conclusion that the
lander was destroyed on impact, or did it bounce; and would you
like to give us a probability on both those two options?
Professor Pillinger: I am not
going to give you any probabilities. We searched for the wreckage
of Beagle. If we could have found it on the surface of Mars, we
would have known how far it got, irrespective of if we got a picture
and irrespective if we got a signal. Malin Space Science Systems
of NASA were extremely helpful in looking. I was disappointed
that ESA did not also help us look for Beagle on the surface of
Q71 Mr McWalter: Does that suggest you
thought it was destroyed on impact?
Professor Pillinger: If we could
have seen the wreckage on the surface of Mars it would have been
helpful to us because we would have known how far we got.
Q72 Mr McWalter: Obviously, you are looking
to promote another mission in 2007. Can you tell us who has expressed
an interest and what the response has been from the Government?
Professor Pillinger: Interestingly
enough, Lord Sainsbury, two days after Beagle did not call in,
said that we must resist the temptation to only do low-risk projects.
This side of the House hereI think we always wanted to
fly Beagle again, but we were very spurred by the inquiry, to
the point where we all got around the table quite recently, andI
am afraid you are not going to like this, but we all decided to
spend our own resources on researching how we think we might fly
Beagle again. That is probably another gentleman's agreement that
you do not want to know about.
Q73 Mr McWalter: Have you been so far
promised any funding for another mission?
Professor Pillinger: PPARC were
very generous in that they allowed us to use the residual money
from the operations to keep the teams alive so that if a chance
arose to fly the Beagle science package again, we would be ready.
Dr Healy: It is worth saying,
though, that it would be a complete waste of all the money, time
and energy that has been put into Beagle if that were the end
of it, if we do not go into Aurora or something like that. That
would be the biggest waste of money possible. We have actually
established a scientific and industrial lead within this activity
in space, and that is not something that you can often say.
Q74 Chairman: Thank you very much. Despite
all the questioning, we are very proud that we were part of that
enterprise because many good people in this country have been
inspired by it, and young people inspired by science is what it
is all about.
Professor Pillinger: Chairman,
you can either shed tears because it has gone or you can smile
about it, and I am glad you are taking the latter route.
Chairman: We know that all experiments
and all ventures do not work in the scientific world, but we go
on, so thank you very much indeed for coming today and helping
us in this inquiry.