What Time Is It On the Moon? OSTP Wants to Know

What Time Is It On the Moon? OSTP Wants to Know

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wants to establish standards for determining what time it is elsewhere in the solar system. A White House policy issued today starts with the Moon, directing NASA and other government agencies to develop a lunar timing standard it calls Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC) by the end of 2026 to support operations on and around the Moon. They also are to work with the international community to make it the international cislunar standard.

The time standard on Earth is Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), also called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Zulu.

LTC will be tied to UTC as will time standards for other celestial bodies in the future.

OSTP Deputy Director for National Security Steve Welby explained the need for time standards as routine space operations move into the area between the Earth and the Moon — cislunar space — and beyond.

“Time passes differently in different parts of space—for example, time appears to pass more slowly where gravity is stronger, like near celestial bodies—and as a result the length of a second on Earth is different to an observer under different gravitational conditions, such as on the Moon. A consistent definition of time among operators in space is critical to successful space situational awareness capabilities, navigation, and communications, all of which are foundational to enable interoperability across the U.S. government and with international partners.” — Steve Welby, OSTP

Today’s policy directs NASA in coordination with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State and Transportation “to deliver a strategy for the implementation of LTC no later than December 31, 2026.”

Under NASA’s current schedule, that would be about three months after the Artemis III mission returns astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program, beginning what NASA envisions as long-term, sustainable exploration and utilization of the Moon with commercial and international partners.

Artist’s illustration of SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System (HLS) which will be used to put NASA astronauts on the lunar surface in 2026 for the first time since the Apollo program. Note astronauts at the base of the lander for scale. Credit: SpaceX

NASA and the other departments will work to establish LTC as an international cislunar standard through existing international standards-setting bodies and with signatories to the Artemis Accords.

This new policy supports OSTP’s National Cislunar Science & Technology Strategy from November 2022.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.