Belfast Telegraph

Space probe scientist Monica Grady so sorry for being over the moon

By John von Radowitz

Leading space scientist Professor Monica Grady has admitted she was "horrified" by the way her emotions spilled over when the Philae probe made its historic landing on a comet.

Footage of the professor whoopin, punching the air and hugging BBC science editor David Shukman went viral on Twitter after the craft bounced onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12.

Interviewed by Kirsty Young on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, she recalled her feelings when she later watched her antics on TV.

Prof Grady said: "Oh, I was horrified... When I got back I was appalled at the fool I seemed to have made myself, punching the air and yelling 'it's landed!' But in my defence we'd been waiting for a long time to do this."

Since then she had been "absolutely knocked out" by the response of people who praised her "unconscious and unselfconscious outpouring of joy".

Prof Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Science at the Open University, worked on a shoebox-sized instrument on Philae called Ptolemy that sniffs and analyses gas and dust. Ptolemy's principal investigator is her husband and Open University colleague Professor Ian Wright.

During her guest appearance on Desert Island Discs she spoke of the "beauty" of moon rocks and meteorites, her decision to have just one child, extraterrestrial life and her Catholic faith. She told Kirsty Young: "My faith just permeates everything; it's just there. But I'm not a creationist."

Among Prof Grady's chosen records were Bat Out Of Hell by Meatloaf, Vienna by Ultravox, and Leonardo Salzedo's Divertimento - better known as the Open University's fanfare.

The book she wanted to take to the island was James Joyce's Ulysses, and the luxury a flute given to her by her husband.

Belfast Telegraph