The other day I was looking through my copy of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (which I buy for the dirty pictures). Turning my attention to the personal columns, I discovered an advertisement for the Science & Technology Facilities Council which is, apparently, considering investing in new space missions related to astronomy and cosmology. Always eager to push back the frontiers of science, I hurried down to their address in Swindon to find out what was going on.
ME: (Knocks on door) Hello. Is there anyone there?
JULIAN: Oh hello! My name’s Julian, and this is my friend Sandy.
SANDY: Oooh hello! What can we do for you?
ME: Hello to you both. Is this Polaris House?
JULIAN: Not quite. Since we took over we changed the name…
SANDY: It’s now called Polari House…
JULIAN: ..on account of that’s the only language spoken around here.
ME: So you’re in charge of the British Space Programme then?
JULIAN: Yes, owing to the budget, the national handbag isn’t as full as it used to be so now it’s just me and her.
SANDY: But never fear we’re both dab hands with thrusters.
JULIAN: Our motto is “You can vada about in any band, with a satellite run by Jules and…
ME: I heard that you’re looking for some input.
SANDY: Ooooh. He’s bold, in’e?
ME: I mean for your consultation exercise…
JULIAN: Oh yes. I forgot about that. Well I’m sure we’d welcome your contribution any time, ducky.
ME: Well I was wondering what you could tell me about Moonlite?
SANDY: You’ve come to the right place. She had an experience by Moonlight, didn’t you Jules?
JULIAN: Yes. Up the Acropolis…
ME: I mean the Space Mission “Moonlite”
SANDY: Oh, of course. Well, it’s only small but it’s very stimulating.
SANDY: Yes. It gets blasted off into space and whooshes off to the Moon…
JULIAN: …the backside thereof…
SANDY: ..and when it gets there it shoves these probes in to see what happens.
SANDY: Why not?
ME: Seems a bit pointless to me.
JULIAN: There’s no pleasing some people is there?
ME: Haven’t you got anything more impressive?
SANDY: Like what?
ME: Maybe something that goes a bit further out? Mars, perhaps?
JULIAN: Well the French have this plan to send some great butch omi to troll around on Mars but we haven’t got the metzas so we have to satisfy ourselves with something a bit more bijou…
SANDY: Hmm…You can say that again.
JULIAN: You don’t have to be big to be bona.
SANDY: Anyway, we had our shot at Mars and it went willets up.
ME: Oh yes, I remember that thing named after a dog.
JULIAN: That’s right. Poodle.
ME: Do you think a man will ever get as far as Uranus?
JULIAN&SANDY: Oooh! Bold!
SANDY: Well I’ll tell you what. I’ll show you something that can vada out to the very edge of the Universe!
ME: That sounds exciting.
JULIAN: I’ll try to get it up right now.
JULIAN: I mean on the computer
ME: I say, that’s an impressive piece of equipment
JULIAN: Thank you
SANDY: Oh don’t encourage her…
ME: I meant the computer.
JULIAN: Yes, it’s a 14″ console.
SANDY: And, believe me, 14 inches will console anyone!
JULIAN; There you are. Look at that.
ME: It looks very impressive. What is it?
SANDY: This is an experiment designed to charper for the heat of the Big Bang.
SANDY: The Americans launched WMAP and the Europeans had PLANCK. We’ve merged the two ideas and have called it ….PLMAP.
ME: Wouldn’t it have been better if you’d made the name the other way around? I mean with the first bit of WMAP and the second bit of Planck. On second thoughts maybe not..
JULIAN: It’s a little down-market but we have high hopes.
SANDY: Yes, Planck had two instruments called HFI and LFI. We couldn’t afford two so we made do with one.
JULIAN: It’s called MFI. That’s why it’s a bit naff.
ME: I see. What are these two round things either side?
SANDY: They’re the bolometers…
ME: What is this this long thing in between pointing up? And why is it leaning to one side?
SANDY: Well that’s not unusual in my experience …
JULIAN: Shush. It’s an off-axis Gregorian telescope if you must know.
ME: And what about this round the back?
SANDY: That’s your actual dish. It’s very receptive, if you know what I mean.
ME: What’s that inside?
JULIAN: That’s a horn antenna. We didn’t make that ourselves. We had to get it from elsewhere.
ME: So who gave you the horn?
SANDY: That’s for us to know and you to find out!
ME: So what does it all do?
JULIAN: It’s designed to make a map of what George Smoot called “The Eek of God”.
ME: Can it do polarization?
JULIAN: But of course! We polari-ize everything!
ME: Like BICEP?
SANDY: Of course. We’re partial to a nice lally too!
JULIAN: But seriously, it’s fabulosa…
SANDY: …Or it would be if someone hadn’t neglected to read the small print.
ME: Why? Is there a problem?
JULIAN: Well, frankly, yes. We ran out of money.
SANDY: It was only when we got it out the box we realised.
JULIAN & SANDY: Batteries Not Included!
With apologies to Barry Took and Marty Feldman, who wrote the original Julian and Sandy sketches performed by Hugh Paddick (Julian) and Kenneth Williams (Sandy) for the radio show Round the Horne. Here’s an example of the real thing: