The Moon is something we have finally begun to explore again, and if all goes as planned, there will be a few people hanging around there from time to time in the future. But what time is it on the Moon?
Agreeing on a system for time on the Moon is important if different missions on the Moon are to work together. To make it work smoothly, navigation and communication need to take place without necessarily sending data back to Earth. That is why, among others, ESA is working on a navigation system for the Moon, similar to our GPS system here on Earth. And for it to work, they need to agree on a local time.
“Looking ahead to lunar exploration of the future, ESA is developing through its Moonlight programme a lunar communications and navigation service,” explains Wael-El Daly, system engineer for Moonlight. “This will allow missions to maintain links to and from Earth, and guide them on their way around the moon and on the surface, allowing them to focus on their core tasks. But also, Moonlight will need a shared common timescale in order to get missions linked up and to facilitate position fixes.”
So, plans for a future where people actually live on the Moon exist, we just have to hope that those who get there can get along and be nice to each other.
“LunaNet is a framework of mutually agreed-upon standards, protocols and interface requirements allowing future lunar missions to work together, conceptually similar to what we did on Earth for joint use of GPS and Galileo,” explains Javier Ventura-Traveset, ESA’s Moonlight Navigation Manager, coordinating ESA contributions to LunaNet. “Now, in the lunar context, we have the opportunity to agree on our interoperability approach from the very beginning, before the systems are actually implemented.”
Read more: esa.int