SPACE robot scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who had links to Oxfordshire, has died.

The planetary scientist, 70, who was the driving force behind Britain’s Mars lander Beagle 2, suffered a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge.

The professor, who was awarded the CBE in 2003, later died in hospital.

His family said his death was ”devastating and unbelievable”.

Prof Pillinger, pictured, was most famous for the ill-fated 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 without a trace. He headed the Beagle 2 consortium, which employed programmers at Harwell Oxford campus to ensure the machine could navigate on the Martian surface.

But the Beagle was last seen heading for Mars on December 19 that year after separating from its European Space Agency mothership Mars Express.

Afterwards Prof Pillinger spoke of his frustration at the failed probe and said there was nothing that should not have worked.