Why the Moon is Getting a New Time Zone

The US plans to land astronauts on the Moon in 2026, the first time since 1972.

The creation of ‘coordinated lunar time’ is part of Nasa’s mission to establish a long-term presence on Earth’s only natural satellite.

By Richard Windsor at The Week: The US federal government has asked Nasa to develop a time zone for the Moon before embarking on new missions to the lunar surface. The head of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) wants Nasa to “work with other US agencies and international agencies to establish a Moon-centric time reference system”, to be called coordinated lunar time (LTC), by the end of 2026, said The Guardian. That deadline coincides with the planned launch of astronaut missions to the lunar surface through Nasa’s Artemis program, the first crewed Moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. Artemis could also establish the first scientific base on the Moon, which could “help set the stage for future missions to Mars”.

Why is Nasa creating coordinated lunar time?

Relative to the Earth, time moves more quickly on the Moon – 58.7 microseconds faster each day – because of the weaker gravitational pull. Satellites and lunar craft involved in the upcoming missions need to operate with “extreme precision”, so establishing LTC is vital to maximizing the chances of success.

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