A European space probe designed by a team led by a British firm could orbit the moon in 2001.
Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) is leading a team which includes Munich’s Technical University, the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and students from across Europe.
It has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to study a low-cost Lunar Academic Research Satellite (Lunarsat).
‘Under the newly established ESA education and outreach activities office, Lunarsat will stimulate interest in planetary exploration right across the education spectrum from younger pupils in schools to university students,’ said SSTL spokeswoman Audrey Nice.
The results of the study will be submitted to ESA by the end of the year. Nice said: ‘We would hope the mission will cost in the region of £10m.’
Lunarsat will be based on the design of another SSTL mini-satellite, the Uosat-12. This is due to be launched next April by a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket.
The Uosat-12 will have a maximum weight of 350kg, while the Lunarsat should weigh around 100kg.
A priority for the one-year Lunarsat mission would be to explore the little known south pole of the moon, some of which is permanently in sunlight and some in permanent darkness.
SSTL will not reveal who will launch Lunarsat.