WASHINGTON-“Moon dust” could be a vital source of fuel, building material and even drinking water for astronauts, according to the Open University.

Researchers in Milton Keynes are investigating ways humans can “live off the land” when they set foot on the moon.

The team is basing its study on lunar soil collected by Neil Armstrong during the first moon landing in 1969.

PhD student Hannah Sergeant said: “We have to account for every milligram.”

Minute samples of moon rock collected during the NASA Apollo 11 mission are held in the Department of Physical Sciences at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes.

Experiments, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian scientists, could take place on the Moon’s south polar region in five years’ time, scientists hope.

“Water is one of the most critical resources we need for space exploration - not just for the life support needs of humans but also to make rocket fuel,” said Ms Sergeant.

Why are Moon rocks going missing?

New techniques developed in Milton Keynes have found much higher concentrations of water in some rocks than were evident in the original investigations.

Dr Mahesh Anand, professor of planetary science and exploration at the OU, has pioneered the search for water on the Moon for 10 years.