The first human step on the moon was taken on July 20, 1969 by astronaut Neil Armstrong. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) it happened at 2:56 am, but what would Neil Armstrong’s clock show if there was a lunar time zone? To date, this question has not been answered, but it may appear in the next few years. Recently, representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA) held a meeting in the Netherlands with representatives of space agencies of other countries, during which the issue of creating a lunar time zone that is different from the earth was raised. Needless to say, it is needed not only to get an answer to the question above. In the future, the success of space missions will depend on the absence or presence of a separate time zone of the Moon. Let’s look into the details.
How scientists study the moon
In the next few years, a huge number of scientific vehicles will be sent to the moon. For example, a few years ago we published an article that in 2023 NASA would launch the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) lunar rover to search for water inside Nobile Crater. This initiative is still in place, only the launch date has been moved to November 2024 – SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle will be used to send this device to the Moon.
In the future, not only research robots, but also people will be sent to the moon. In 2025, it is planned to carry out the third stage of the Artemis space program to return people to the surface of the earth’s satellite. As part of this phase, six astronauts will be sent into space, two of whom will land on the moon using the SpaceX Starship spacecraft. Subsequently, three more Artemis missions will be completed, in which astronauts will deliver the modules of the Lunar Gateway circumlunar station.
It will not be superfluous to mention the Gateway station, which will be built in the orbit of the Moon by specialists from the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. According to preliminary data, it will consist of nine modules – they are planned to be sent and docked gradually. A space station in orbit around the Moon will be important both to the goals of the Artemis program and to future missions to Mars.
Хотите узнать, как NASA будет строить лунную станцию Gateway? Смотрите это видео.
Lunar time zone
Recently, during a meeting in the Netherlands, representatives of the European Space Agency announced the need for a lunar time zone. So far, all missions to the Moon have been based on Earth time. But this is an extremely inconvenient approach, because before sending commands, scientists need to take into account the time it will take to transmit them – do not forget that the distance between the Earth and the Moon is more than 300 thousand kilometers.
Research devices and astronauts could be guided by on-board mechanical clocks, but this is also a bad option. The fact is that the force of gravity and the speed of rotation of the Moon differs from the Earth’s, and this affects the passage of time – every day the clock on the Moon will “rush” by several microseconds, and when it comes to ultra-precise research vehicles, even such distortions can cause serious problems. Moreover, time will go differently depending on whether the apparatus or astronaut is on the surface of the Moon, or in its orbit.
After the creation of the lunar time zone, it will become much easier to conduct space missions. In addition to this, the likelihood of equipment failures will decrease. However, the implementation of the new time zone will take some time. At the moment, representatives of space agencies do not even know which organization will be responsible for lunar time, and the one responsible for this will obviously be needed. It is also very important that the new time zone be as clear as possible for the astronauts so that they can navigate it.
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In general, time is a very complex phenomenon, the description of which requires a separate article. And there is one on our website – once my colleague Artem Sutyagin told in detail why we need it, how Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity changed the typical idea of mankind about time and whether we will ever be able to travel into the past or the future. If interested, read this article.