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White House commissions NASA to introduce lunar time

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Own time until 2026

Apr 03, 2024

By Dominik Hochwarth

Reading time: approx. 2 minutes

How do the clocks tick on the moon? The White House has tasked NASA with setting a lunar time by the end of 2026.

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The clocks tick differently on the moon than on Earth, which is why NASA should develop its own lunar time by 2026.
Photo: Rosskothen

How does time measurement work on the moon? According to the US government’s wishes, NASA should clarify this question by the end of 2026 at the latest. As the Reuters news agency reports, citing a White House memo, the space agency was commissioned to develop a proposal for the introduction of a uniform lunar time, the so-called Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC).

Why does it need its own lunar time?

A lunar time standard is necessary because the gravitational conditions on the Moon differ from those on Earth and affect time measurement. Accurate timekeeping is essential for the operation of spacecraft, lunar bases and satellites. While atomic clocks on Earth set the pace of time, a comparable mechanism is necessary on the Moon to synchronize communication and operations. Kevin Coggins, NASA’s director of space communications and navigation, said in an interview: “The same clock we have on Earth would work differently on the moon.”

Also interesting: Nuclear power on the moon also endangers the earth

Preliminary estimates from experts show how inaccurate a clock calibrated on Earth would be on the moon. Arati Prabhakar, director of the U.S. government’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a memo that such a clock for someone on the moon would run an average of 58.7 μs per day slower than time on Earth. In addition, regular fluctuations would cause time measurement on the Moon to increasingly diverge from that on Earth.

So it will be necessary to give the moon its own time. This also applies given that several nations such as India and China have started a race for the next manned moon landing. NASA is in the middle of it all with its Artemis program. The US space agency doesn’t just want to pay a quick visit to the moon, but also wants to permanently colonize the Earth’s satellite. There are also commercial providers who also want to fly to the moon.

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