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Source: The post is based on the article “The moon may get its own time zone: Here is why” published in the Indian Express on 10th March 2023.
What is the News?
The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to give the moon its own time zone (Lunar time zone).
What are the various lunar missions which are on the horizon?
Several lunar exploration missions are planned by various countries and private operators.
M1 lunar lander: It is built by the Japanese company Ispace. It will try to deploy a rover built by the United Arab Emirates; a robot built by Japan’s space agency, JAXA.
Nova-C lander: It is expected to land on the South Pole of the moon.
NASA’s manned mission: NASA prepares to send four astronauts into orbit around the moon next year. That mission will pave the way for the first crewed moon landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972.
ESA: It is contributing to NASA’s effort to build the Gateway lunar station, which will serve as a way station for future crews on their way to the lunar surface.
China: China completed the construction of its own space station and previously hinted that Chinese astronauts would be on the moon by 2030.
South Korea: It has launched its own lunar spacecraft, Danuri. It also joined India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, as well as lunar missions from NASA and China.
What is the need for a Lunar time zone?
At present, the lunar missions have operated at the time of the country that launched them.
The aforesaid lunar missions will not only be on or around the moon at the same time, but they will often be interacting as well — potentially relaying communications for one another.
For all those interactions to happen smoothly, the current system is unsustainable and the missions will need to operate on a standardized time.
About the Lunar time zone
Objective: To streamline contact among the various countries and entities, public and private, that are coordinating trips to and around the moon.
Significance: The idea of timekeeping on the moon is important because it shows the international development of the moon.
In future, the Martian time zone might be developed along the lines of lunar time.
What are the challenges in formulating the lunar time zone?
The challenges include a) the establishment of a lunar time zone needs international coordination and consensus, b) Time on Earth is precisely tracked by atomic clocks. But clocks run faster on the moon than on Earth, gaining about 56 microseconds each day. Further, the ticking occurs differently on the lunar surface than in lunar orbit.
Note: The space station doesn’t have its own time zone, it runs on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is meticulously based on atomic clocks.