I hope you will agree with me when I say:
We have all fantasized about traveling to outer space and exploring the secrets hidden in our solar system.
Over the years we have gone from viewing mars to be the God of War in Roman mythology, to viewing the red planet as the next most habitable orb in our galaxy.
But do you ever wonder how long would it take a human to get to Mars? Is time travel to Mars possible? How far is Mars from Earth? I am here to ensure none of your questions are left unanswered.
We will begin by first exploring the red planet itself, and other important facts like the distance from Earth to Mars that affect our decision to travel. Then, we will discuss further previous missions to Mars. Finally, we will be able to conclude How Long Does It Take To Travel To Mars.
This terrestrial planet, known to be the next smallest after Mercury, orbits the Sun from a 142 million miles distance. Its atmosphere is mainly comprised of carbon dioxide, and its gravitational forces are 3/8th of the forces that we experience on Earth.
This means that walking on Mars would be the equivalent of bouncing on a trampoline on Earth. However, it is not as fun as it sounds. In reality, walking on a planet with microgravity results in serious health complications that include conditions such as eye-sight and muscle loss.
Moving on to the distance between our home and Mars, the average distance between the two planets is about 140 million miles apart. The closest distance that the planets can be is around 34 million miles. However, this has yet to occur in the recorded lifespan of the two planets.
Mars was observed to be the closest to Earth in 2003 when the two planets were at a distance of 34.8 million miles apart. The closest average distance of 35 million miles overall is achieved approximately after every 26th month. The farthest distance that the red planet has been away from Earth has been recorded at 250 million miles.
Next, we will discuss the logistics behind a mission to Mars, and the factors that affect the decision to travel in the first place. The atmosphere at Mars can be the first destructive obstacle in an astronaut’s journey. The planet is known to be surrounded by an extremely dusty atmosphere, and the particles of dust are relatively smaller than the ones witnessed on Earth. Dust storms can surround the planet for weeks at a time. The resulting situation would require astronauts to survive off of stored water and power, as solar panels would no longer be functional amidst the storm.
In addition, each mission must coincide with the synodic periods that occur every 26th month. One other factor to keep in mind is how far apart is Mars from the Sun. At their farthest distance apart, the southern hemisphere of Mars experiences harsh winters, and the same happens at their closest distance to the northern hemisphere. This affects the sustainability of the journey as well, as generating solar power can be affected depending on where the astronauts land.
Now, before we discuss how to get to Mars, we will look into the missions of the past and how long would a Mars mission take if we followed the same steps as before.
Missions on Mars In The Past
To be able to answer the question of how long will it take to get to mars, we will look into missions that took place in the past, and the earth to mars and back travel time. The following are the journeys listed in order from the earliest to the latest:
- Mariner 4 (1964)
- Mariner 6 (1969)
- Mariner 7 (1969)
- Mariner 9 (1971)
- Viking 1 (1975)
- Viking 2 (1975)
- Mars Global Surveyor (1996)
- Mars Pathfinder (1996)
- Mars Express Orbiter (2003)
- Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005)
Starting off with Mariner 4, it was the first mission that explored the space surrounding Mars and captured images of the planet. The spacecraft was launched on the 28th of November in 1964 and completed its mission in 228 days. Moving on, Mariner 6 and 7 were launched on the 25th of February and 27th of March respectively in 1969. The former took a total of 156 days in flight time, whilst the Mariner 7 completed the journey in 131 days. The Mariner 9, which is still in Mars orbit, was launched on the 30th of May in 1971 and took a total of 167 days to reach Mars.
These are just a few examples that highlight how long does it take to get to the mars. The longest mission recorded yet out of the list above is the Viking 2, which took a total of 325 days. Through our previous records, we can tell that a journey from Earth to Mars can take anywhere between 131 to 325 days. The variation depends on a lot of factors, such as the distance between the two planets, the path is chosen, and the obstacles in the solar system.
We will now look into all these factors and be able to understand why does it take so long to get to Mars.
How Long Does It Take To Get To Mars
Previously, we mentioned the variations in distance between Earth and Mars. But how does the fluctuation in distance affect the Earth to Mars travel time? When we speak about planetary missions, the most common query is whether rockets travel a straight distance from Earth, or do they have a specific route to follow? We shall begin by understanding the effect of individual orbits of each planet and how the trajectory route is selected for each mission.
Earth and Mars both revolve around the sun in their own orbits. The two planets also orbit at their own specific rates. When Earth completes about 2 orbits of the Sun, Mars concludes a singular orbit. In order for us to land on Mars, both the planets should be in perfect alignment. Let’s now explore the best route for a journey to the red planet based on the distance between the two planets and the time of their alignment.
Now that you finally understand how long it would take to get to Mars, you can revisit your childhood dream of living on Mars and decide if it is the journey for you!