CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — With more moon missions than ever on the horizon, the European Space Agency wants to give the moon its own time zone.
This week, the agency said space organizations around the world are considering how best to keep time on the moon. The idea emerged during a meeting in the Netherlands late last year, with participants agreeing on the urgent need to establish “a common lunar reference time,” said Pietro Giordano of the space agency. , a navigation system engineer.
“A concerted international effort is now being launched to achieve this,” Giordano said in a statement.
Currently, a mission to the moon is running at the time of the country that operates the spacecraft. European space officials say an internationally accepted lunar time zone would make things easier for everyone, especially since many countries and even private companies are aiming for the moon and NASA is set to send astronaut there.
NASA must grapple with the question of time while designing and building the International Space Station, fast approaching the 25th anniversary of the launch of its first piece.
While the space station does not have its own time zone, it runs on Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, which is carefully based on atomic clocks. That helps split the time difference between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, and other affiliated space programs in Russia, Japan and Europe.
The international team that monitors lunar time is debating whether an organization should set and maintain lunar time, according to the European Space Agency.
There are also technical issues to consider. Clocks run faster on the moon than on Earth, gaining about 56 microseconds per day, the space agency said. Further complicating matters, detection occurs differently on the lunar surface than in lunar orbit.
Perhaps most importantly, lunar time should be practical for astronauts there, said the space agency’s Bernhard Hufenbach. NASA is shooting for its first flight to the moon with astronauts in more than half a century in 2024, with a lunar landing as early as 2025.
“It’s a challenge” that each day lasts up to 29.5 days on Earth, Hufenbach said in a statement. “But having established a system of working hours for the moon, we can do the same for other destinations on the planet.”
Mars Standard Time, anyone?
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