Keeping Time

Back in the day – which in this case means last century – while serving aboard nuclear submarines, I first encountered life in two different chronological constructs. While the world continued to operate on a 24-hours cycle, life aboard the submarine was constructed around an 18-hour day based on standing “watch” on the rotation of three shifts of 6 hours each. “What time is it?” was no longer a question of UTC London, Washington DC, Honolulu,or the timezone we happened to be operating in, it was “how much time” was left in the current watch cycle or until you had to report for the next.Any Star Trek fan knows that the galactic date is referred to as “stardate” often established during a voice-over log entry, such as “Captain’s log, stardate 41153.7.  But what about time of day? Revealing my inner “trekkie”….there is a Star Trek Discovery episode, The War Without, The War Within when Burnham disturbs Admiral Cornwell at her sleeping quarters, to which Cornwell responds: “I suppose I don’t have to tell you it’s the middle of the night.” Considering they’re aboard a spaceship, how do they determine when is night and day? There are two camps in the trekverse. One holds they still maintain the 24-hour cycle base on Earth’s UTC standard. After all, a starship operates like a naval vessel at sea  (which is why Space Command should be part of the Dept. of the Navy….just saying).  The other camp holds that day/night is coordinated with the closest starbase.

Now at this point… if you’re still reading… you are likely thinking, “ok, but why do I need to know this?” You don’t, but it hopefully makes clear that there were discussions about what time standard to maintain on the International Space Station (UTC) and why there are active discussions about what will be the time standard when the moon has its first outpost and habitat. The European Space Agency wants to give the moon its own timezone.

How serious a discussion is it? I wouldn’t worry about until your calendar app has a Moon timezone option.  …..and while we are at it…Will they also get a telephone country code or an area code?

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