NASA launched a Deep Space Atomic Clock that’s like a GPS for space

(CNN)The most precise clock ever flown in space may not inspire thrills, but it could be the key to safely sending people to Mars. An ordinary atomic clock just won’t do GPS satellites that orbit Earth use atomic clocks for precise time-keeping, NASA said, but those aren’t made to withstand forces in space that can mess with their accuracy. That’s because standard atomic clocks use neutral atoms, which can be impacted by environmental changes in space like changes in temperature or atmospheric pressure. But NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock is up to 50 times more stable than standard atomic clocks because it’s powered by mercury ions. The ions’ electric charge means they can be contained in an electromagnetic trap that …