A country house that’s all about space
On most evenings, Angela Lamont can see the Moon clearly from her back garden. She lives in the village of Hellidon, in Northamptonshire, from where even the distant bodies of the Milky Way are visible.
No matter that her home stands 250,000 miles from the lunar glow, there are barely 170 people in the village and, in total, they generate nowhere near enough man-made light to obscure the nightly display.
For the past 14 years, she has lived in this handsome 17thcentury house. And for the last three years, she has been helping to organise a space expedition that will enable large numbers of people, if not to travel to the Moon, at least to lodge their life story deep within its surface.
The expedition is called Lunar Mission One and, along with many others, Angela is putting together a digital file of her life to be inserted into the core of the Moon once the space module has landed.
“People are collecting all sorts of photographs and documents about themselves, their favourite music, their family tree and where they live,” says Angela. “On top of which, they can also insert a tiny bit of hair, from the root end, with a bit of DNA attached.
“We reckon that conditions are right to allow whatever is put there to survive for a billion years.”
What’s more, this is not just a piece of intergalactic colonisation. For, in the true spirit of eco-spaceexploration, the Lunar Mission One project is going to take away from the Moon exactly the amount of rock (or possibly green cheese) that it takes to make the hole in which the data is inserted.
“The aim is to discover exactly what the Moon is made of,” says Angela, an experienced scientific journalist and conference speaker.
“What you find lying on the surface of the Moon does not give us a true picture. We need to drill down deep into the core. We won’t be making a big hole, but it will be quite a deep one, as much as 20 metres down.
“The thing is, the Moon has fascinated mankind since the beginning of time. Even today, with all our scientific and technical advances, we still don’t know exactly what it’s made of.
“Of course, there have been many theories, but the one we are looking at now is the idea that the Moon might actually be a bit of the Earth, separated when some giant object slammed into us, some 4.5 billion years ago.”
And the best way to test that theory is for an unmanned probe to travel up to the largely unexplored south pole area of the Moon, to investigate setting up an observatory and to dig right into the surface, to see if, deep down, it’s made of the same stuff as the Earth.
The probe may not be that large (6ft by 6ft is the size envisaged), but the cost of getting it up there is, well, stratospheric, and lift-off is not anticipated until 2024.
As yet, it remains to be seen which space bodies come up with how much money, and where the launch will be staged. That said, Angela and her colleagues have already been hard at work firing up enthusiasm, and, thanks to a worldwide internet Kickstarter campaign, 7,000 people from 70 different countries have paid a total of £700,000 to have their digital data planted in the Moon’s surface.
A galaxy of scientific heavyweights have lent their support to the project. Names include television scientist Brian Cox, former Science Minister Ian Taylor and Professor Stephen Hawking.
“I have no doubt that young people and adults alike will be inspired by the ambition and passion of all those involved in the project,” says Professor Hawking. “As a truly scientific endeavour, I wish it nothing but success.”
As well as having her eyes fixed a quarter of a million miles up in the night sky, Angela Lamont is preoccupied with more down-toearth matters, such as the sale of her house.
It may not be as old as the Moon, but in earthbound terms it has a pretty lengthy history. The slate on the outside wall records that it was built in 1671, with a later addition in Victorian times.
And although it has central heating, the thickness of the exterior walls (up to 3ft) bear witness to a time when the best way to keep out the cold was with solid masonry.
Indeed, when you venture inside Hillside House, you step back two or three centuries, with ceiling beams the size of ships’ masts, floors made of stone or oak and many open fireplaces.
That said, there are also seven bedrooms, plus an ultra-modern bathroom and a kitchen that comes out of the 21st rather than the 17th century.
“It’s a marvellously friendly village, and a wonderful place to bring up children,” says Angela. “Everyone meets at the Red Lion pub [100 yards away] and there is always some event going on.”
As demonstrated by the village newsletter, full of announcements regarding everything from litter picks to garden festivals. There will, she says, be plenty to put in her digital memory box, about the happy 14 years she has spent here.
“At the same time, though,” she says, eyes straying to the heavens, “I’m as keen as everyone else on this project to solve the mystery of the Moon. Everyone is rushing off to Mars, but we can’t escape the fact that, wherever you live on Earth, the Moon is our nearest neighbour.”
Hillside House is on sale for £700,000, through Strutt and Parker, 01295 273592, struttandparker.com. For more about the mission to the Moon, and how to get involved, see lunarmissionone.com