Home INTERNATIONAL How long is it on the moon? Looking for a unified program for space missions

How long is it on the moon? Looking for a unified program for space missions

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The Moon has never had an hour independent of the Earth’s. Each lunar mission is assigned its own special time, always relative to the Earth zone known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is one or two hours ahead of Spanish Peninsular Time depending on the time of year. equals. An imprecise, inefficient and disallowed method among ships visiting satellites. Something that the European (ESA) and American (NASA) space agencies are seeking to improve as a decade of renaissance approaches to space exploration.

“We are living in an extraordinary moment. This year, for example, three commercial missions are scheduled to be sent, a paradigm shift in lunar exploration”, explains Mohit, an engineer. Javier Ventura-Travset, from ESA, which considers it a complete revolution. Among the objectives already mentioned in the space plans: the proliferation of commercial missions from private companies, new national actors (such as India or Japan) and the establishment of permanently inhabited bases before 2030. A more plausible scenario than in previous decades, now the US agency has also introduced new costumes with which she will walk on the moon.

As he points out, measuring the time from Earth to the Moon will always cause precision problems. ventura-travesetinitiative coordinator Moonlight (luz de luna) From ESA: “Due to general relativity, for example two identical clocks set at the same time, one on Earth and one on the lunar surface, will show different times, because lunar gravity is stronger than terrestrial is much shorter, so the lunar clock is ahead of Earth by about 56 microseconds per day. The space engineer clarifies that “It may not sound like much, but after a while the two clocks will show different times. A subtle effect, a weak gravitational force on the Moon, causes clocks to run slow, which must be corrected to synchronize the satellites and promote interoperability of the systems.

an independent axis of the earth

As more than 50 years have passed since the last manned mission to the Moon, the North American Apollo 17, space exploration is once again the priority of international agencies and the public interest. For the European Space Agency it is a defining moment in the race for space exploration, and the terrestrial satellite plays a decisive role in the new chapter: dozens of planned missions and even a permanent station orbiting the Moon continuously and for ten years In view of the definite goal of sending Europeans to land on it.

We are living in an extraordinary moment, a revolution is happening on the Moon

Javier Ventura-Travet, ESA

The more than 12 manned space missions calculated for the next few years face logistical challenges ranging from technical to philosophical. An independent time zone for Earthlings forces us to answer a question, apparently simple, but very complex: How long is it on the Moon?

At a recent congress organized by ESA in the Netherlands, the lunar axis began to be defined with the aim of improving interoperability between satellites from different agencies and coordination. Ventura-TraveSat explains that it wants to develop its own satellite geolocation navigation system, LunanetA system similar to the American GPS or the European Galileo, as the agency explains in its document, a “Selenistic Temporal Framework, The idea is that, starting in 2024, ESA and NASA will place four strategic satellites on the Moon, each with its own atomic clock, the most accurate measurement model to date, triangulating the Moon’s position and the time it takes for the Moon to arrive. signal each one, and thus agree on an official time.

Artist's recreation of the LunaNet concept.
Artist’s recreation of the LunaNet concept.NASA/Reese Patillo

The ESA Moonlight project, led by Ventura-TravSat, aimed to retire the communication method used until now: each space probe or lunar manned module with its own independent timing had to transmit its radio signals back to terrestrial antennas, then to satellites. But had to go back. A useful system, despite the fact that it is an infrastructure that will not be sufficient by itself according to the space agency. Multiple ships working together beyond the Moon, with the landscape of space exploration looming on the horizon interval Microseconds are present in all transmissions, as well as a lack of precision for positioning itself via the lunar satellite.

Ventura-Travet bases itself to describe the importance of its initiative on improving communications: “the fact of having communications and navigation on land has been an extraordinary multiplier of our economic activity”, more than 10% of GDP of the European economy, “and the same could happen on the Moon”. “The possibilities are enormous for new applications: for example, to be able to have permanent lunar settlements”, he summarizes. The ESA engineer emphasizes the value of the new space economy, the services private companies have been offering in recent years, because at “low cost” they allow agencies, universities or other private actors to bring in scientific equipment.

Thanks to this, Ventura-TravSat has already shown a glimpse of the future: “The great dream of Europe is to have an astronaut on the lunar surface before 2030. That is the goal, and a sustainable communication and navigation infrastructure is an essential step towards it”.

measuring time value

Since the beginning of time, it has been necessary to measure time. The Mayas of Yucatán believed they could actively control its flow, and this was important to maritime navigation in Asia millennia ago. In the late 19th century, to organize the departures and schedules of trains in Paris, but it is now also in the modern economy: to coordinate international flights, the logistics of transatlantic shipments, satellite telecommunications, streaming Or geolocation on our mobile. Time is not easy to define though: “Until Einstein came along a century ago and revolutionized our concept of time, time was thought to be a compact block, an absolute! It was referred to as the Time of God, a system that has never changed”, confirms the cosmologist jonas chaves-montero,

Chávez-Montero, a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE), studies gravity: “When time really began to be understood, it was with the theory of relativity, which deals with time and gravity, which is the basis for all phenomena. explains. Know: Where you are, mass, for example, on a planet like Earth, affects the passage of time; A bigger one, even faster”. Therefore, time slows down on the Moon and affects technology, as equipment, when positioned, moves within microseconds and accuracy is critical to the true future of space missions. , Chaves-Montero believes that the space initiative to adapt to lunar time stems from a “deep knowledge of physics and how to apply it”.

Tracy Caldwell Dyson (NASA) looks at Earth through the dome of the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2010.
Tracy Caldwell Dyson (NASA) looks at Earth through the dome of the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2010.Pitcher

Photos of galactic constellations from the James Webb Space Telescope, in addition to being impressive, show that there is no “now” in cosmology. “We never see the present, we have images of the universe as it was as a baby 300,000 years ago, the maximum light allows us, a very primeval moment and the cosmic microwave background, beyond which it becomes opaque It is,” Chavez explains. Vyadh. For the researcher, looking at the universe is a window into the past, a huge conceptual change: “If you look at your hands, the Moon or the Sun, there are always intervals of microseconds to minutes, and in the case of galaxies We’re talking millions of years, the further back we look, the further back in time we look; The universe is a time machine. Therefore, any navigation system must take temporal discontinuities into account.

One of the vexing contradictions facing manned missions to lunar soil is the definition of a “day”. Satellites take 29.5 days to complete one orbit, but the biology of the lunar landers remains the same for 24 hours. Due to physical necessity, Earth days will always be significant, even if we change our immediate reference to a satellite or another planet: “We have predetermined circuits that work cyclically and with more or less periodicity, such as heart rate or hormonal regulation”. biological description Luis MartinezFrom the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante.

This CSIC neuroscientist draws an analogy to how it currently occurs on the International Space Station (ISS), with about 16 sunrises in a 24-hour human cycle. They have programs to adjust to Earth’s circadian rhythms, to avoid problems arising from insomnia and diseases caused by poor rest. Martinez reflects on whether another significant run of form will be possible Homo sapiens: “Having passed a three-day journey or 500 days of a space mission, we will remain undeniably human due to millions of years of evolution, somehow they must complete a night/day cycle.”

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