Scientists call for the creation of a ‘Coordinated Lunar Time’ as they reveal time moves 58.7 microseconds quicker on our lunar satellite than on Earth

Scientists call for the creation of a ‘Coordinated Lunar Time’ as they reveal time moves 58.7 microseconds quicker on our lunar satellite than on Earth


From Greenwich Mean to Eastern Standard, there’s more than 30 timezones in use today. 

But one more may soon be added – and it would be literally out of this world. 

The US government has told NASA that an official timezone needs to be created for the moon, because seconds tick slightly faster there than they do on Earth. 

This timezone – provisionally called Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC) – would be used by astronauts living and working on the moon later this decade. 

The idea has already been floated by the European Space Agency, but the Biden administration has ordered NASA to have ‘LTC’ officially set up by 2026. 

The US government has told NASA that an official timezone needs to be created for the moon , because seconds tick slightly faster there than they do on Earth
Our natural satellite – the moon – may be getting its own time zone. That’s because The White House directed NASA to create a standard moon time

READ MORE: White House tells NASA to create a standard time for the moon

The change would ensure accurate data transfers between spacecraft

Because the moon has a smaller mass than Earth, the gravitational pull on the moon is weaker.  

As a result, time moves slightly faster on the moon than on Earth – around 58.7 microseconds faster per day, ‘with ‘additional periodic variations’, according to the US government in a memo

Although this is less than the blink of an eye, tiny time differences between the Earth and the moon could cause communication problems during future moon missions.

‘Time passes at a very slightly different rate on the moon due to its different gravity,’ Sara Russell, professor of planetary sciences at the Natural History Museum, told MailOnline. 

‘That difference doesn’t matter at all for earthlings, but is really important for coordinating complex electronic communications. 

‘Working all this out is essential if we are to explore and ultimately live on the moon.’ 

As yet, it’s unclear how a lunar time system would work, or what a lunar clock would look like. 

Dr Ruth Ogden, professor of the psychology of time at Liverpool John Moores University, said a simple tweaking of the types of clocks we have in our homes is ‘unlikely to be sufficient’, but called LTC a ‘great idea’. 

‘We will probably need a moon timescale which moves outside of the traditional day and night understanding of time,’ she told MailOnline. 

‘For astronauts on the moon, having a time zone which is centred around their experience or day and night on the moon may help them to acclimatise more quickly.’ 

On Earth, most clocks and time zones are based on Coordinated Universal Time (UCT), which relies on a vast global network of ultra-precise atomic clocks. 

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is defined by sophisticated, ultra-precise ‘atomic clocks’ around the world, which tick precisely and continuously. Experts are pictured here with the NIST-F2 atomic clock in the US

READ MORE: Scientists say Earth will soon need a ‘leap second’

A leap second was last added on December 31, 2016

These atomic clocks measure changes in the state of atoms and generate an average that ultimately makes up a precise time. 

But due to the gravitational differences, if these clocks were on the moon they would tick around 58.7 microseconds faster per day. 

‘An atomic clock on the moon will tick at a different rate than a clock on Earth,’ said Kevin Coggins, deputy associate administrator at NASA.

‘It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the moon or Mars, that each one gets its own heartbeat.’

Nations venturing to the lunar surface have long used their own country’s timezones when performing missions. 

For example, the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s – when man stood on the moon for the first time – NASA used Central Time Zone (CDT) as the missions were launched in Houston, Texas. 

But scientists have warned this method will not be sustainable as space agencies around the world plan on establishing moon habitats.

Compared with the Apollo visits, astronauts during the upcoming Artemis programme will be staying on the moon longer. 

Pictured, astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the US flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, July 20, 1969. Artemis is considered the successor to Apollo
NASA hopes to develop a sustainable lunar exploration program starting from 2028. This artist’s illustration shows what NASA’s Artemis base camp could look like

NASA’s Artemis programme kicked off in 2022 with the first mission, which sent an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon and back.

The next mission, Artemis II which is due to take place in September 2025, will send four astronauts on a trip around the moon and back home.  

Then, Artemis III, taking place September 2026, will actually land humans on the lunar surface – specifically the moon’s south polar region. 

Eventually as part of its Artemis programme, NASA plans to have set up a base camp in the lunar south region by the end of this decade. 

NASA plans to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s after first landing on the Moon

Mars has become the next giant leap for mankind’s exploration of space.

But before humans get to the red planet, astronauts will take a series of small steps by returning to the moon for a year-long mission.

Details of a the mission in lunar orbit have been unveiled as part of a timeline of events leading to missions to Mars in the 2030s.

Nasa has outlined its four stage plan (pictured) which it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars at he Humans to Mars Summit held in Washington DC yesterday. This will entail multiple missions to the moon over coming decades

In May 2017, Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at Nasa, outlined the space agency’s four stage plan that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars, as well as its expected time-frame.

Phase one and two will involve multiple trips to lunar space, to allow for construction of a habitat which will provide a staging area for the journey.

The last piece of delivered hardware would be the actual Deep Space Transport vehicle that would later be used to carry a crew to Mars. 

And a year-long simulation of life on Mars will be conducted in 2027. 

Phase three and and four will begin after 2030 and will involve sustained crew expeditions to the Martian system and surface of Mars.


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