Colin Pillinger, who ran the failed Beagle 2 mission to Mars, has launched an exhibition of cartoons charting man's obsession with reaching the red planet.

Colin Pillinger, who ran the Beagle 2 mission to Mars that famously went missing on Christmas day 2003, is capitalising on the media attention the failed mission attracted with an exhibition of cartoons charting man’s obsession with reaching the red planet.

Pillinger tracked down over 700 cartoons relating to the search for life on mars. Marsin their eyes is the first guest exhibition at London’s newly-opened cartoon museum, and displays about 120 Mars cartoons. The exhibition includes cartoons from major newspapers and magazines around the world, said Pillinger, including some surprises. ’You don’t normally get Mars cartoons in Horse and Hound,’ he said.

Pillinger doesn’t seem to mind having fun poked at him in the name of space exploration. ’It’s difficult to do this, to land on Mars. If cartoonists highlight the difficulties, then we get the opportunity to explain just what the problem is,’ he told Chemistry World.

The cartoons focus on more than the failed Beagle 2 mission. The US presidency does not get off lightly, and cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s chart the space race between the US and the former Soviet Union.

The exhibition runs until 1 July and has been paid for by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (Pparc). Pillinger hopes to extend the run and take the exhibition on tour - funds permitting. 

The European Space Agency (ESA), which part-funded the Beagle mission, is not involved in the project. ’ESA have to be used by now to the unusual things I do in order to try and encourage people to take an interest in space research. It didn’t cross my mind to seek their permission,’ Pillinger said.

Pillinger has not given up hope of reaching Mars. ’I still think that we ought to be going back to mars rather sooner than everybody else is working on it,’ he said. This cartoon exhibition and the publicity it brings will only add to his cause, he hopes. ’It doesn’t hurt to have lots of public interest.’

Katharine Sanderson