Enter the maze

A month to grab the moon

by Peter McOwan, Queen Mary University of London

Would you like to be part of a science mission to the moon? The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing are all about journeys, the journeys of the contestants through the challenging stages until at the end they emerge with new skills and a better understanding of themselves. We are involved in that journey through votes and social media. In the past we would only have watched the final product: the polished performance. We would have had little way of knowing the work that went into it, nor seen the failures and successes that litter the way. Why can't we do that with science? Why can't we do that with really, really big science? Why can't we do that with sending a rocket to the moon?

Join a mission to the moon

With Rosetta's comet-surface-bouncing inspiration fresh in mind, the UKs Lunar Mission One has just been launched at the Royal Society in London. It is an opportunity for the world to get involved in a new way to explore space and be a part of the mission (and that means you too!) Anyone anywhere can be a part of humanity's journey back to the moon.

The mission plans to send a robotic probe to the south pole of the moon. There it will drill down into the lunar surface to finally discover how the moon was created, and how the early solar system formed. It will help answer fundamental questions about our origins. Not only that, it will also be checking if the South Pole of the moon is suitable for a future base to help us reach the planets and beyond. By getting involved you can be part of every stage from start to finish over the ten years or so it will take to reach the moon. You will be able to see for yourself how the decisions are made and the challenges overcome. It will be your chance to see behind the curtain of how big science happens.

A bit of you to visit the moon

The mission plans to send a robotic probe to the south pole of the moon.

Like all good stories there is an extra twist. Having removed rock from under the moon's surface, the project will replace it with a crowd sourced public archive of life on Earth. It will be a digital summary of planet Earth, stored safely under the lunar surface, just in case we humans do something silly down here. That archive will contain personal digital memory boxes: people's meaningful memories of their lives like a favorite song, a poem, a picture, a selfie. They can all be turned into binary and saved safely in the night sky. You can book a box now by pledging money to help the project get started. Your box can be stored with a sample of hair, containing our own DNA, the plan for building another you. In effect the archive part of the project gives a chance for a bit of you, mind and body, to visit the moon.

A Kickstarter campaign is underway to begin the process. It closes on Wednesday 17 December 2014, and the project will use the money generated to fund educational activities to help inspire and generate the scientists, technicians, mathematicians and computer scientist the mission will need over its lifetime. A robot lander to the moon and a digital archive both involve a lot of computer science and need computer scientists. As private space explorer, video games designer and friend of cs4fn, Richard Garriott once said, space flight these days is all about programming.

So you have less than a month to grab the moon, be a part of history and help solve a mystery. You may never look up at the night sky the same way again. It's over to you.