‘Heartbeat on the Moon’: In first, US directs Nasa to create lunar time standard

Apr3,2024



The White House has taken an unprecedented step by directing NASA Establishing a unified standard of time for the Moon and other celestial bodies, with the goal of setting an international benchmark in the growing lunar race between nations and private enterprises.
The directive, emanating from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), tasks NASA to collaborate with US government departments to develop a strategy by the end of 2026. coordinated lunar time (CLT). This initiative addresses variations in time perception due to different gravitational forces on celestial bodies compared to Earth, which affect the precision requirements of lunar spacecraft and satellites.
Kevin Coggins, NASA's space communications and navigation chief, underlined the importance, saying, “The same clock we have on Earth will run at a different speed on the Moon.” OSTP chief Aarti Prabhakar's memo elaborated on the technical aspects, stating that the Earth-based clock on the Moon would lose 58.7 microseconds per Earth day, with other periodic variations causing the Moon to diverge even further from Earth time. .
Coggins said symbolically, “Think of the atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory. They are the heartbeat of the country. You would like to see a heartbeat on the Moon.”
The initiative outlines the goals of NASA's Artemis program, which include establishing lunar bases to facilitate astronaut missions and future Mars missions. An OSTP official highlighted the important role of Unified Lunar Time in ensuring secure data transfer and synchronized communications between Earth, lunar satellites, bases and astronauts. Discrepancies can potentially lead to errors in mapping and positioning.
'How disruptive'
The official stressed the need for global synchronization similar to Earth-based Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), commenting, “Imagine if the world were not syncing their clocks to the same time – how disruptive that could be.” ” This standard, which is defined by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union, relies on atomic clocks globally to provide accurate time measurements.
The OSTP memo underlined the need for international agreements to implement coordinated lunar timing, citing the Artemis Agreement – ​​an agreement signed by 36 countries outlining space and lunar conduct – as a framework for cooperation. Notably, China and Russia, America's key rivals in space, have not signed these agreements.
This instruction marks an important moment space exploration and international cooperation, aimed at establishing a timing standard that ensures the accuracy, flexibility and scalability required for the challenging lunar environment, benefiting all spacefaring nations.
(with inputs from agencies)



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