Time zones in outer space

Orbiting spacecraft typically experience many sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour period, or in the case of Apollo program astronauts travelling to the moon, none. Thus it is not possible to calibrate time zones with respect to the sun, and still respect a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. A common practice for space exploration is to use the Earth-based time zone of the launch site or mission control. This keeps the sleeping cycles of the crew and controllers in sync. The International Space Station normally uses Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Timekeeping on Mars can be more complex, since the planet has a solar day of approximately 24 hours and 39 minutes, known as a sol. Earth controllers for some Mars missions have synchronized their sleep/wake cycles with the Martian day, because solar-powered rover activity on the surface was tied to periods of light and dark. The difference in day length caused the sleep/wake cycles to slowly drift with respect to the day/night cycles on Earth, repeating approximately once every 36 days.

Time zones on Earth