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”.
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.”