Leeds scientist conquered comet landing, now she’s on a mission to the Moon

Monica Grady
Monica Grady
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A scientist from Leeds who made news across the world as a face of the historic Philae comet landing is leading a new mission to the Moon.

Professor Monica Grady’s emotional reaction to the European Space Agency probe successfully touching down on a comet 300 million miles from the Earth became one of the stand-out moments of television coverage from the control centre in Germany last week.

The image released by the European Space Agency .

The image released by the European Space Agency .

The Open University lecturer’s celebrations, broadcast on BBC News, represented 10 years of work on the project, which saw her help to build a shoe-box-sized gas analysis instrument on-board the robot.

She has already begun analysing data collected from the comet, to uncover what role they played in preparing the stage for life on Earth.

While that might sound a daunting task, it has not prevented the 56-year-old from taking on a leading role as scientific adviser to a new British consortium which wants to land a probe on the Moon in 10 years’ time.

The plan for the £500million Lunar Mission One, unveiled this week, asks for contributions in exchange for the chance to have photos, text and their DNA included in a time capsule which will be buried under the Moon’s surface.

Prof Grady, an ex-pupil of the former Notre Dame School, now a sixth form, said: “Our aim is to go and drill on the Moon and look at the water on it in the same way we’re doing with the comet.

“It will help us understand how the Moon and more about its relationship with Earth.”

It is hoped interest in Lunar Mission One will be buoyed by the frenzy which surrounded Philae’s landing.

Keeping a close eye on scenes back home in Roundhay were her family, including her 82-year-old mother.

After appearing on television celebrating the landing, she was brought hurtling back down to Earth by her teenage niece, a pupil at Roundhay School.

“I got a text saying ‘most embarrassing auntie ever’,” Prof Grady said.

**Members of the consortium spearheading Lunar Mission One include television presenter and scientist Professor Brian Cox and the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, along with other space enthusiasts and businesses.

They are aiming to raise £600,000, through the ‘crowd-funding’ website Kickstarter in the coming weeks to fund the initial phase of the project.

In exchange for a donation, people will be given the chance to buy space on memory discs to be buried in a bore hole drilled into the lunar surface, like a ‘personal time capsule’.

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