Brainfood: Unlikely Managers

Lead scientist, Beagle 2 Prof Colin Pillinger, head of planetary and space sciences, The Open University.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When did you become a manager?

I've been a professor since 1990 and I've headed teams since I was 35. By 1971, I was in a science team and had my own group. The Beagle 2 project started in 1997.

What does management mean to you?

It's about pulling strings. When I first came back from the European Space Agency and they said they were going to launch a probe to Mars in 2003, I asked colleagues and people in the business if they wanted to join the project. I was always the leader - I'm the pied piper. Beagle 2 was a big project and I'm on the front line. I'm in charge of the science programme and I'm part of the systems team that designed the engineering.

It's about trying to balance all the activities with not enough time.

Beagle 2 was not a success, but I regard it as Edison might have. He had 1,500 attempts at inventing the light bulb. He saw it as 1,500 demonstrations of how not to do it.

What do you love/hate about it?

I love the research. Every day is different. It's not a job of work. I hate people who stand in your way when they know you'll go round or over them. Sometimes it's just inevitable.

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