Space Clock

  • Imagine if your GPS on your phone took 40 minutes to calculate your position?
  • You might miss your turn, or be several exits down the highway before you GPS caught up with you.
  • How do we navigate through space ?
  • currently, spacecraft flying beyond earth don’t have a GPS to find their way through space.
  • Navigators on earth send a signal to the spacecraft which receives it and sends it back.
  • Extremely precise clocks on the ground, called atomic clocks measure how long it takes the signal to make this two-way journey.
  • The amount of time tells them how far the spacecraft is, and how fast it’s going.
  • The farther out in the spacecraft is, the longer it takes to receive and send a signal.


  • What if humans are sent to another planet like mars.
  • A two way system that sends a signal from earth to a spacecraft  back to earth and then to spacecraft again would take an average of 40 minutes.
  • it would be better if the system was one-way allowing the explores to immediately their current position rather than waiting for that information to come back from earth.
  • NASA is testing new technology that would allow future explorers to do just that.
  • THE DEEP SPACE ATOMIC CLOCK is the first demonstration of an atomic clock that can be used for navigation in deep space .
  • it will allow a spacecraft to calculate its own trajectory, instead of depending on earth.
  • if a spacecraft had one of these clocks on board it could receive a signal from one of those big antennas on earth and quickly measure it’s speed and position .
  • The deep space atomic clock could one day let astronauts navigate safely and accurately to mars and beyond
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