Beds, Herts & Bucks

Nasa Moon mission: Open University partners with space agency

Buzz Aldrin salutes the US flag Image copyright NASA
Image caption The announcement comes as the world prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landings on 20 July

The Open University is partnering with Nasa on a mission to the Moon.

Scientists at the Milton Keynes-based university have developed an instrument which monitors the "very thin atmosphere" near the Moon's surface.

The instrument called PITMS will be carried to the moon in 2021 under Nasa's Artemis programme.

Dr Simeon Barber from the Open University said it would help investigate the concept of a natural water cycle on the Moon.

There is "increasing evidence" from orbiting spacecraft that water may migrate away from equatorial regions until it becomes tightly trapped at permanently cold locations, according to Dr Barber.

It is hoped the missions could "pave the way for the next human visitors to the Moon".

Image copyright The Open University
Image caption PITMS will operate on the Moon for several days

The university said PITMS, which stands for Prospect Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer, would "provide an early opportunity to study the dynamic behaviour of water on the Moon".

It is scheduled to land in a large crater on the near side of the moon called Lacus Mortis by July 2021.

PITMS will work by studying the disturbance of the atmosphere near the Moon's surface when the landing takes place.

Dr Barber said: "The science we achieve, in particular on the availability of accessible water and oxygen, could help the international community to formulate new ways to explore the Moon and space in a more sustainable manner by using these off-planet resources."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites