White House tells NASA to create new time zone for Moon

On Tuesday, the White House released Policy Note Directs NASA to develop a new time standard for the Moon by 2026. Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC) will establish an official time reference to help guide future lunar missions. It comes as (at least) the 21st century space race is shaping up to be between the US, China, Japan, India and Russia.

The memo directs NASA to work with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State and Transportation to plan a strategy to implement the LTC by December 31, 2026. International cooperation will also play a role, particularly with signatories to the Artemis Agreements. Established in 2020, they are a set of common principles between the space exploration and operational policies of a growing (currently) 37 countries. China and Russia are not in that group.

“As NASA, private companies and space agencies around the world launch missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, it's important that we establish spacetime standards for safety and accuracy,” said Steve Welby, OSTP Deputy Director for National Security. wrote In a White House press release. “Consistent definition of time among operators in space is critical to successful space situational awareness capabilities, navigation and communications, all of which are fundamental to operating with the U.S. government and international partners.”

Einstein's theories of relativity dictate that time changes relative to speed and gravity. Because of the Moon's weaker gravity (and the differences in motion between it and Earth), time moves a bit faster there. So an Earth-based clock on the lunar surface would appear to gain an average of 58.7 microseconds per Earth day. As the U.S. and other countries plan missions to the moon to build sites for research, exploration and (eventually) permanent habitation, using a single standard will help synchronize technology and tasks that require precise timing.

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“The same clock on Earth moves at a different speed on the Moon,” said Kevin Goggins, NASA's head of space communications and navigation. said Reuters. ‚ÄúThink of the atomic clocks at the US Naval Observatory (in Washington). They are the heartbeat of the nation, synchronizing everything. You're going to love Heartbeat on the Moon.

A photo of the moon captured by NASA, exquisite detail.

NASA

The White House wants LTC to align with Universal Time (UTC), the standard by which all time zones on Earth are measured. Its note states that the new time zone should enable precision navigation and scientific endeavors. It also wants LTC to maintain fallback if communication with Earth is lost, while providing scalability to space environments “beyond the Earth-Moon system.”

NASA's Artemis program aims to send a crew to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and '70s. Artemis 2, which will fly around the moon with four people, is now scheduled to launch in September 2025, the space agency said in January. Artemis 3, which plans to put humans back on the surface of the Moon, is now scheduled for 2026.

Besides the US, China also aims to send astronauts to the moon Before 2030 Two of the world's leading superpowers are taking their race to space. While no other countries have announced crewed missions to the lunar surface, India (which placed a module and rover on the moon's south pole last year), Russia (which has not gone so well), the United Arab Emirates, Japan, South Korea, and private companies have all done so in recent years. Proved lunar ambitions.

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In addition to enabling further scientific exploration, technology establishment, and resource mining, the Moon could serve as an important stop on the way to Mars. It can test technologies and provide fuel and supply requirements for human missions to the Red Planet.

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