Watch this space! Stevenage is at the head of the race...

The comet that the probe landed last Wednesday,

The comet that the probe landed last Wednesday, - Credit: Archant

An engineer who helped build the Rosetta spacecraft which stunned the world by helping a probe land on a comet has spoken about making history in Stevenage.

The Rosetta before it was launched in 2004.

The Rosetta before it was launched in 2004. - Credit: Archant

Phil McGoldrick joined the Rosetta space programme as an engineering manager at Airbus Defence and Space, on Gunnels Wood Road, in 1999, just months after construction started.

The 54-year-old spent the next five years managing a team of engineers as they worked with more than 200 other contractors across Europe to build the spacecraft and its philae probe – which landed on Comet 67P/C-G, 511 million kilometres away, on Wednesday last week.

He said: “It was a great project to be part of because you had so many people from different disciplines working together. At the Stevenage site we designed, manufactured and built the communication systems and solar panels for the spacecraft.

“At the time we were all totally engrossed in it but after the launch you get on with other things and forget about it.


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“It was only when the probe landed on the comet that I thought back to all the time we spent working on the project and what a fantastic achievement it was.

“Now that the probe is inactive Rosetta will begin to scan the comet to try and determine what it is made out of. It will send all this information back to earth where we can analyse it and hopefully learn more about the universe.”

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Mr McGoldrick, who began his career at the site in 1981, revealed that space is a growing industry in the town and there are lots of opportunities for people who are interested in working in the field.

He said: “I’ve spent my entire career working in space and think it’s a brilliant industry that never ceases to amaze. We have fantastic apprenticeship programmes here which are always looking for people to join and I would encourage anyone interested to apply.”

For more information visit www.space-airbusds.com.

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