NASA Receives White House Order to Develop Lunar Time Standard

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NASA and its international partners have big plans for the Moon—plans that will require the careful coordination of clocks on Earth and those on the Moon. The White House wants NASA to develop a solution to support the Artemis program, and to maintain the United States’ position in the global race.

plan, it was first reported by Reutersand the US space agency to create Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC) by the end of 2026. Coordinating time systems on Earth is a simple task, but due to coordination, it becomes more difficult when the moon starts to participate.

Because of Einsteinian relativity, time passes differently on the Moon than it does on Earth. The same can be said for space. Time, or perspective, would slow down significantly when you are close to a black hole due to the object’s gravitational pull. The difference between how time passes on the Moon and Earth is small, but it adds up.

The White House leadership is unprecedented. Last year, ESA opened the program for companies to help develop a permanent Moon clock. NASA launched its Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) in 2019, allowing spaceflight to operate without communications from Earth.

Missions to the Moon currently communicate with team members on Earth using Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) as the standard time language. UTC time is associated with atomic clocks. In fact, UTC is just one unified universal time; you can read about the different types of universal time (and their plurals and initials) Here. But as humans prepare for a longer stay on our rocky satellite, the space agency has determined the need for a different time, to deal with the fact that the moon’s clock can run slightly slower than the earth’s clock.

One expert said Nature that the lunar clock will gain about 56 microseconds per Earth day. (The White House Office of Science and Technology estimated the loss at 58.7 microseconds per day.) If the humans on the Moon worked with normal clocks, their companion would be out of sync with Earth time.

The White House is in sync with the times during the Artemis programwhich will see NASA astronauts return to the lunar surface. Artemis 3 aims to bring the community together near the moon’s south pole before 2026.

The race to get back into space, if you will, is made up of many sprints, across multiple fields of engineering and astronomy. One of the races is a timed race, and the White House just told its runner to start running. As for how Russia, China, or other countries would respond to what appears to be a lack of cooperation, that is an open question.

More information: We need a fixed Time of the Moon

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