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Last Updated: Saturday December 15 2007 13:03 GMT

Britain plans first Moon mission

The moon during different stages of an eclipse

Britain is hoping to launch its first mission to the Moon in 2012.

Nasa are expected to back the British plans to blast an unmanned probe into space to study the Moon's surface.

The American space agency has described the Moonlite mission as "inspirational" and says it fills a gap in its own exploration programme.

The idea is for the probe to fire off four darts that will crash into the Moon's surface and listen out for tremors or 'moonquakes'.

Scientists are hoping analysis of the tremors will help them find out more about the Moon was formed.

The Moon

There have been loads of missions to the Moon, but we still don't know that much about our nearest space neighbour.

The project's head researcher, Alan Smith, said they needed Nasa's backing but he hoped the mission would inspire more young people to get into physics and engineering.

"I think the plan ticks all the right boxes and it's extremely likely that we will have the first British mission to the Moon launched in 2012."