Cape Canaveral – With an unprecedented number of lunar missions on the horizon, the European Space Agency wants to give the Moon its own time zone.
The agency said this week that its counterparts around the world are considering how best to measure time on the moon. The idea was floated during a meeting in the Netherlands last year, and participants agreed on the urgent need to create a “common lunar reference time.”
At the moment, the lunar mission uses the time of the country that organizes it. European space officials believe that a recognized and accepted lunar time zone will simplify life for everyone, at a time when more and more countries and even private companies are hoping to visit the moon.
The US space agency, NASA, faced this problem when designing and building the International Space Station, the first module of which will soon be 25 years old.
Although the station does not have its own time zone, it uses Coordinated Universal Time which is based on ultra-accurate atomic clocks. This helps to share the time difference between Canada and the United States on the one hand, and on the other hand, Russian, Japanese and European programs that participate in the station.
Researchers will also have to overcome technical issues. Clocks on the Moon move faster than on Earth, gaining about 56 microseconds per day, according to the space agency. Complicating matters, clocks don’t operate in the same way in orbit around the moon as they do in lunar soil.
But more than anything else, lunar time had to be practical for the astronauts who would use it. NASA hopes to send humans to the moon next year and land there in 2025.
A lunar day can last up to 29.5 Earth days, so the challenge is daunting. The system invented for the Moon could then be applied to other planets.
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