Friday, July 19, 2024
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White house pushes for moon’s own time zone


Nasa to set up time standard for the Moon, where seconds tick faster than on Earth | The Independent

The White House is pushing for the creation of a unique time zone for the Moon, known as Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC), with the assistance of NASA. This initiative stems from the fact that due to the Moon’s different gravitational field strength, time progresses slightly faster there compared to Earth, advancing by 58.7 microseconds each day.

Although seemingly negligible, this temporal difference can pose significant challenges in synchronizing spacecraft operations. By implementing LTC, the US government aims to facilitate coordination among national and private lunar missions.

Professor Catherine Heymans, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal, highlighted the variance in time due to gravity differences across the Universe. She explained that clocks on the Moon tick at a different rate due to its weaker gravity.

Currently, time is measured on Earth using atomic clocks, which register time with extraordinary precision. However, if these clocks were relocated to the Moon, they would gain approximately one second over 50 years.

Kevin Coggins, a top official at NASA responsible for communications and navigation, emphasized the necessity of tailoring timekeeping to each celestial body. This rationale underpins the drive for LTC.

Islam Dogru/Anadolu via Getty Images The Bulging Moon rises over the sky at the early morning hours as a flag of the United States waving, in New Jersey, United States on March 30, 2024.

While NASA is spearheading LTC development, the European Space Agency is also working on its own time system. International consensus and a central coordinating body, akin to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures for terrestrial time, will be crucial for implementing LTC.

Presently, the International Space Station employs Coordinated Universal Time due to its low Earth orbit. Agreement will also be needed on the starting point and duration of the new lunar time frame.

The US aims to have LTC operational by 2026 to coincide with Artemis-3, its upcoming manned lunar mission. This mission, the first to land on the Moon’s surface since Apollo 17 in 1972, is targeted at the lunar south pole, believed to harbor significant water-ice reserves.

Precision in navigation is vital for Artemis-3 and other planned lunar missions, both national and private. Failure to coordinate timekeeping could result in challenges in data transmission and communication between spacecraft, satellites, and Earth.

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