What time is it on the moon? Europe pushing for lunar time zone

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. on the horizon / ɒn ðə həˈraɪ zən / (idiom) – coming soon or in the future

    The company announced that a new product is on the horizon.

  2. keep time / kip taɪm / (idiom) – to tell or record the correct time

    The coach keeps time on how fast the players finish the race.

  3. coordinated / koʊˈɔr dnˌeɪ tɪd / (adj.) – well organized so that all of one’s parts work together

    The army needs a coordinated plan to win the war.

  4. meticulously / məˈtɪk yə ləs li / (adv.) – showing great care to ensure that the details are correct or accurate

    The architect created the house plan meticulously.

  5. complicate / ˈkɒm plɪˌkeɪt / (v.) – to make something more challenging to do or understand

    The professor’s explanation complicated the idea.


Read the text below.

With more lunar missions than ever on the horizon, the European Space Agency wants to give the moon its own time zone.

The agency said space organizations around the world are considering how best to keep time on the moon. The idea came up during a meeting in the Netherlands late last year, with participants agreeing on the urgent need to establish “a common lunar reference time,” said the space agency’s Pietro Giordano, a navigation system engineer.

“A joint international effort is now being launched towards achieving this,” Giordano said in a statement.

For now, a moon mission runs on the time of the country that is operating the spacecraft. European space officials said an internationally accepted lunar time zone would make it easier for everyone, especially as more countries and even private companies aim for the moon and NASA gets set to send astronauts there.

NASA had to grapple with the time question while designing and building the International Space Station, fast approaching the 25th anniversary of the launch of its first piece.

While the space station doesn’t have its own time zone, it runs on Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, which is meticulously based on atomic clocks. That helps to split the time difference between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, and the other partnering space programs in Russia, Japan and Europe.

The international team looking into lunar time is debating whether a single organization should set and maintain time on the moon, according to the European Space Agency.

There are also technical issues to consider. Clocks run faster on the moon than on Earth, gaining about 56 microseconds each day, the space agency said. Further complicating matters, ticking occurs differently on the lunar surface than in lunar orbit.

Perhaps most importantly, lunar time will have to be practical for astronauts there, noted the space agency’s Bernhard Hufenbach. NASA is shooting for its first flight to the moon with astronauts in more than a half-century in 2024, with a lunar landing as early as 2025.

“This will be quite a challenge” with each day lasting as long as 29.5 Earth days, Hufenbach said in a statement. “But having established a working time system for the moon, we can go on to do the same for other planetary destinations.”

Mars Standard Time, anyone?

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Pietro Giordano said that deciding on the right way to keep time on the moon is a joint international effort. What projects do you think require joint international effort? Who do you think should lead these kinds of projects? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, what does it take to make international projects successful? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • What do you think are the pros and cons of being able to travel to outer space more easily (ex. pro: we can discover new useful things, con: we might damage other planets or places in outer space)? Discuss.
  • Do you think making the moon or outer space accessible for more people is worth all the money and effort? Why or why not? Discuss.