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Friday, March 3, 2023

It's About Time

With a renewed focus on manned lunar missions growing in importance, what might have once been considered an interesting wrinkle is beginning to loom as a real concern: time. Specifically, how is time to be defined, measured, and recorded in lunar activities.

That's one big time zone... Photo: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Will United States explorers utilize chronographs set to Houston time, Chinese crews to the clocks of Beijing? Time moves faster on the surface of the moon. 56 microsceonds a day doesn’t sound like much, but it eventually adds up, especially when precise orbital calculations depend on accuracy. And the parameters of time even vary from the lunar surface to vehicles and objects in orbit above the moon.

This dilemma is nothing new. The International Space Station was designated on Coordinated Universal Time, based on atomic clocks. But that’s just one orbital installation. The moon is obviously a much larger territory.

Buzz Aldrin prepared to track time on Apollo 11's voyage to the moon. Photo: NASA

Space agencies around the planet are beginning to exchange ideas about the creation of a universal lunar time zone – “a common lunar reference time,” described the European Space Agency’s Pietro Giordano, who engineers navigation systems.

Marcia Dunn, a highly-regarded space correspondent for Associated Press, covered this topic earlier in the week. Her reporting can be read here: