top of page
Bureau Lunaire des Poids et Mesures - Lunar Bureau of Weights and Measures

Bureau Lunaire des Poids et Mesures - Lunar Bureau of Weights and Measures



Moon Gallery, Nanoracks, Voyager Space

My project is a meditation on lunar and terrestrial time. It proposes a new organisation on the moon: the Lunar Bureau of Weights and Measures and provides it with a founding object for calibrating lunar time. Housed in a 1 centimetre cube, this will provide an object for reflection for the crew and people on earth.


On 20 May 2019, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures redefined standard measurements in terms of “constants that describe the natural world.” The second was redefined as 9,192,631,770 cycles of the caesium-133 atom used in atomic clocks.


On the moon, the caesium-133 atom resonates faster, due to gravitation time dilation, as proposed by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. This states that time and space will change in response changes in gravity. The moon’s gravitational field is weaker than the earth’s, so lunar time runs faster.


This discrepancy is the basis for the Lunar Bureau of Weights and Measures. The Lunar Bureau will fulfil similar functions to those of the International Bureau on earth, such as coordinating and communicating measurement standards. However, it will differ in acknowledging the existence of multiple planetary measurement systems, rather than a single unified standard.


Following its creation in Paris on 20 May 1875, The International Bureau of Weights and Measures commissioned and took custody of the International Prototype Meter and International Prototype Kilogram as founding objects with which all meters and kilograms could be calibrated. While the practical utility of these objects is limited (the Prototype Kilogram has been found to fluctuate in weight), they retain a significant aesthetic and symbolic resonance.


Likewise, the Lunar Bureau will take custody of the cubic centimetre provided by the current call. This will allow calibration between lunar and terrestrial time. The Nima Sand Museum Hourglass (Oda, Japan) contains 629 billion grains of sand and takes exactly one earth year to empty. To convert an earth year into a lunar year, 419 grains of sand must be removed from the Nima Hourglass. So the Lunar Bureau’s founding artifact will be a 1cm cube containing 419 grains of sand.


The dispersed sand grains will create new patterns and sculptural forms in response to their environment. On earth they will settle in the base of  the cube, creating a mini dune. Once in space, they will become a free floating cloud of individual grains, occasionally colliding. Finally, on the moon the cloud will slowly settle, but this time very softly due to the lower gravitational pull. In each of these three stages of metamorphosis, the grains will make sound too. Each grain collision will create a tiny sonic event. The 419 grains inside the cube will act as a meditation object, as a way to acknowledge the differences between celestial bodies. It proposes a reflection on relations between the earth and its moon, rather than an attempt to understand them in separation.

Technical information:

Artwork name:

Bureau Lunaire des Poids et Mesures - Lunar Bureau of Weights and Measures




Max Baraitser Smith


United Kingdom

This work is part of the following collection:

Moon Gallery




1 x 1 x 1 cm



IAAA Art Style:

Launch vehicle / mission:

Antares 230+ / NG-17 Cygnus resupply mission

Host spacecraft / hardware:

International Space Station



Launch location:

NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

Launch date:

19 Feb 2022

Orbit / space location:

LEO, International Space Station (ISS)

Return vehicle:

SpaceX Dragon 2

End date:

11 January 2023



Client / Agency:

Moon Gallery, Nanoracks, Voyager Space


Max Baraitser Smith

Artist, scientist

United Kingdom

Max Baraitser Smith


Moon Gallery


Moon Gallery


Let's do this together!

This record is a work in progress. We invite you to contribute to this archive.
If you have additional information to share about this artwork, or if you spotted an error, please leave a comment below.

Share Your ThoughtsBe the first to write a comment.

Are you the copyright holder of this artwork and do not wish to be included in this archive, then let us know by mail and we will remove your record.

Copyright Disclaimer: Exception to copyright for libraries, museums and archives. Copies for the preservation of cultural and scientific heritage: libraries, archives or museums can restore works or make digital copies of works in order to preserve and conserve them for future generations. More info here. This database and its content are protected. More info here. No copyright infringement intended.

bottom of page