Reference numberMS/926
TitleWorking papers on space research, chiefly on lunar samples, accrued by Colin Trevor Pillinger
DescriptionPapers primarily concern the United Kingdom's procural, distribution and analysis of lunar surface samples collected from the moon by the USSR unmanned spacecraft missions Luna 16 (1968), Luna 20 (1972) and Luna 24 (1976) and by NASA's Apollo missions 11, 12 and 14-17 (1969-1972). Also Apollo missions 18 and 19, which were proposed but never took place.

Colin Pillinger was curator for the Luna 16, 20 and 24 mission samples given to the UK by the USSR and the papers that he accrued in this capacity span from the United Kingdom's first approaches to secure these moon rocks (instigated by Geoffrey Eglinton), through the allocation of the samples which was managed by a Royal Society Allocation Committe and a curatorial unit at the University of Bristol, to the publication of papers detailing the findings of the various research groups who were allocated samples for investigation. These groups were chiefly based in UK universities but there was also some international exchange of material. The papers include: international and domestic correspondence including with officers of the Royal Society and the USSR Academy of Sciences; documentation of the Royal Society Allocation Committees for Lunar Samples; notebooks documenting the separation, photography, analysis and distribution of samples; research notes; curatorial paperwork such as sample handling questionnaires and transfer agreements; other administrative papers; and copies of published papers and conference proceedings. There is some photographic material of the samples in the form of negatives, slides and photographic prints with accompanying notes.

The Apollo and Mars mission material mostly originates from the University of Bristol, School of Chemistry where Geoffrey Eglinton was Principal Investigator for the research being conducted into the lunar samples and data, his co investigators were Colin Pillinger and J R Maxwell. There is also an earlier Apollo document from Eglinton's time at the University of Glasgow.

The Apollo material also concerns the project to open Apollo 16 special surface samplers without compromising the lunar samples they contained. Colin Pillinger designed the scheme by which the samplers were opened.

There are also some papers relating to other NASA space missions, as follows:
A proposed return of samples from Mars to Earth which would have been a third phase of Mars exploration following on from the Mariner programme and Viking Probe in the 1970s.
The Venus Pioneer.

There are documents such as agenda and minutes from scientific committees that Pillinger was involved with, including: the international body - The Committee on Space Research 'COSPAR', and the UKs membership body for COSPAR - The British National Committee on Space Research, and its various subcommitees, most frequently the Planetary Sciences Sub Committee.
Extent18 boxes, MS Large
Computer printout
Physical descriptionLoose papers, boxed
Access statusOpen
Administrative historyGeoffrey Eglinton was instrumental in proposing that the UK request lunar samples from the USSR. The samples returned to Earth by Soviet unmanned spacecraft Luna 16 and Luna 20 were formally transferred on 24 Aug 1972 by Academician A. P. Vinogradov, Director of the Vernadskii Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Praesidium the USSR Academy of Science, Moscow to Sir James Lighthill FRS, a former Vice-President and Physical Secretary of the Royal Society. A special allocation committee was set up by the Royal Society to allocate the samples to 'principal investigators' and research groups in laboratories in the United Kingdom for analysis. A curatorial facility was established at the University of Bristol on behalf of the Royal Society for the purpose of implementing a distribution plan for the Luna samples. Colin Pillinger who was then a Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bristol, School of Chemistry under Geoffrey Eglinton, acted as curator for the samples and continued in the role after his move to the University of Cambridge in 1976. The Royal Society Allocation Committee for Soviet Lunar Samples was notified as dissolved in July 1976 but revived to manage the Luna 24 samples.

Working papers on space research, chiefly on lunar samples, accrued by Colin Trevor Pillinger

Fellows associated with this archive
NA4367Pillinger; Colin Trevor (1943 - 2014)1943 - 2014
NA5073Eglinton; Geoffrey (1927 - 2016)1927 - 2016
Add to My Items

    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

    The Royal Society

    The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of
    the world's most eminent scientists and is the
    oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
    Registered charity number 207043

    Website design ©CalmView


    + 44 207 451 2500
    (Lines open Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:00. Excludes bank holidays)

    6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

    Email Us →


    Subscribe to our newsletters to be updated with the
    latest news on innovation, events, articles and reports.

    Subscribe →

    © CalmView