Recollections from a life on Mars
It was literally a book launch.
Several minutes later, the hardback - called My Life on Mars (The Beagle-2 Diaries) - floated back to Earth by parachute.
The front cover features Colin Pillinger pictured in Sandy Quarry, which is often used by space engineers to simulate the Martian landscape
Colin is one of the most recognisable scientists in the UK. Those whiskers and that Bristolian accent have added to his appeal - which remains as strong as ever.
I was with him at a book event in Stevenage two weeks ago. The room was packed with people eager to hear the Open University researcher's story and how he got into the space business.
A little later in the evening, as everyone left, we reflected on the Beagle legacy, and he recalled an incident that pretty much summed it up:
"About nine months ago, I pulled into the OU car park and there was this huge lorry, a guy delivering a load of bricks - a builder, obviously. I looked at this guy and I thought 'he's going to take a while', so I dashed in front of him in my car to get into the parking space. Well, the door opened on the lorry and this huge man got out - you could eat your dinner off his hands - and he started walking towards the car. And I thought, 'Bloody hell, I'm going to get thumped'. Well, he stuffed this huge paw through the window and said, 'You're the man who launched Beagle-2, aren't you? I want to shake your hand, mate'. And that to me says everything. There's nobody in the UK I didn't reach."
The media, in particular, have always liked Colin's straight-talking - he's "good for a quote", as we say. And there're plenty of those in the new book (the front cover carries that fantastic image by Max Alexander shot in Sandy Quarry).
A young Colin Pillinger analysing Apollo lunar samples (top, near), and with Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (bottom)
Colin is one of those people who keeps a diary - a very detailed diary.
He went to meetings and he wrote down exactly what was said by whom, to whom.
What you get in this book is "his history", his version of how Beagle was made and the battles that had to be fought to get the probe to the launch pad.
As we all know now, Beagle walked a tightrope from the moment it was agreed it should hitch a ride to the Red Planet on the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter.
Funding for the project was hand-to-mouth, and the technical hurdles it had to overcome have been well documented.
No-one really knows what happened to Beagle after it was spun off Mex and sent in the direction of Mars. The best explanation remains that it was caught out by the thinner than expected atmosphere at the Red Planet, and it hit the ground sooner and faster than anyone had anticipated.
There were inquiries - and recriminations - that followed the loss.
And it's fair to say there will be a number of people, especially at the European Space Agency, who won't like what Colin has to say about how they handled events.
For those of us who weren't in the rooms when those conversations took place, it is impossible for us to judge where the truth really lies.
But a couple of things did occur to me after I'd finished the book and put it down.
The first is that the Beagle-2 story is helpful to those who make the case for the UK having a properly funded space agency.
If it is to deal effectively with international partners and manage its own affairs efficiently, the argument goes, Britain has to have an executive body in charge of space policy.
The inability of government back then to put money where it was needed, when it was needed [PDF 800KB], undoubtedly made life harder for the Beagle project.
The book returns to Earth
The other point concerns the extraordinary achievement of Beagle as a science package.
Beagle weighed just shy of 70kg when it came off Mex, and that included all the equipment it needed to get into the Martian atmosphere, slow its descent and put down softly on the surface.
Its landing mass of 33kg included the instruments to search for signs of life, and was expected to work for at least 180 Martian days.
Contrast this with Europe's next effort to touch Mars - its 2016 landing module.
When it comes off its orbiter, the entire deployment will weigh 600kg. When it gets to the surface, there will be about 300kg (about 10kg available for science) which will operate for just a few days.
Now, I know I'm "comparing apples with oranges" to some extent here - 2016 is all about developing entry, descent and landing technology for future planetary exploration. But I must confess am left with a degree of disappointment.
Opportunities to touch other worlds do not come around so often that we can afford to pass up the chance to maximise every science possibility.
Nonetheless, I'll write more about 2016 in the coming days; it is still very much a fascinating project.