NASA Making a New Clock on the Moon That Ticks Faster

  • Humans landed on the moon, drove around, and dropped 500,000 pounds of trash.
  • But one thing we haven’t done yet with the moon is establish a standard time.
  • The White House has tasked NASA with creating a standardized time for the Moon by the end of this year.

NASA wants to find an unusual way to track time, by putting the Moon on its own inflated clock.

It’s not really a time zone like Earth’s, but a complete frame of reference for the Moon.

Because there is less gravity on the Moon, time passes a little faster there – 58.7 microseconds each day – than on Earth.

The White House on Tuesday asked NASA and other US agencies to work with international agencies to develop a new time reference system centered on the Moon.

“An atomic clock on the Moon will run at a different rate than a clock on Earth,” said Kevin Coggins, NASA communications and navigation manager. “It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the Moon or Mars, each one has its own heartbeat.”

So everything on the Moon will run on accelerated lunar time, Coggins said.

The last time NASA sent astronauts to the Moon, they wore watches, but timing was not as precise and critical as it is today with GPS, satellites, and complex computer and communications systems, did he declare.

Those microseconds matter when high-tech systems interact, he said.

Last year, the European Space Agency said Earth should come up with a unified time for the Moon, where a day lasts 29.5 Earth days.

The International Space Station, being in low Earth orbit, will continue to use Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC.

But NASA needs to figure out exactly where the new space-time comes into play. Even Earth time speeds up and slows down, requiring leap seconds.

Unlike Earth, the Moon will not have daylight saving time, Coggins said.

The White House wants NASA to present a preliminary idea by the end of the year and have a final plan by the end of 2026.

NASA aims to send astronauts around the Moon in September 2025 and land humans there a year later.


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