In short: Space agencies from around the world have turned their interest in the Moon. Dozens of lunar missions are in the works for the coming decade including individual and joint efforts. There is still a lot of work to be done before these missions can be launched, which may include the Moon getting its own time zone.
Up to this point, missions to the Moon have operated based on local time zones exported from Earth but this is apparently unsustainable in the near future with many international players simultaneously participating in these activity of the month. Thus, a common timescale may be on the cards.
Talk of a lunar time zone began at a meeting at the European Space Agency’s ESTEC technology center in the Netherlands last November. According to ESA navigation system engineer Pietro Giordano, a joint international effort has been launched to achieve the goal.
There seem to be more questions than answers in this episode. Who is responsible for establishing and maintaining the Moon’s weather? Could it be tied to Earth or exist as its own separate entity? Why not just use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)?
As the ESA points out, clocks on the Moon are faster than those on Earth and gain about 56 microseconds per day. The agency also envisions a timescale that is practical for astronauts. “This is a challenge on a planetary surface where in the equatorial region each day is 29.5 days long, including freezing fortnightly lunar nights,” said Bernhard Hufenbach, a Moonlight member. Management Team.
Once a working time system is established for the Moon, it may make it easier to create similar systems for other planetary destinations such as Mars.
The timing initiative is part of a larger effort to create LunaNet, a communications and navigation architecture to expand network capabilities on and around the Moon. A NASA video compares the system to our use of Wi-Fi and mobile networks on Earth, complete with access to multiple nodes.
NASA’s Artemis III aims to return humans to the surface of the moon for the first time in more than 50 years, and is currently planned for 2025.
Image credit: Jon Tyson