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How Long Does It Take to Get to Mars?

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter

All eyes are on the red planet lately. Thanks to a number of missions in the past few years – including the Perseverance Rover that touched down Feb. 22, 2021 – Mars is increasingly interesting to astronomers, astrophysicists and future astronauts. NASA plans to put astronauts on Mars in the future, and Elon Musk keeps claiming he'll do it first , but before we strap in and blast off, it helps to know exactly how long it takes to get to there.

Mars completes one turn around the sun every 687 Earth days . This means that the distance between Earth and Mars changes every day, and the two planets are aligned closely to one another roughly every 26 months . Additionally, because both Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits (and Mars' is more elliptical than Earth's), some of our close approaches are closer than others. The most recent notable close approach was Oct. 6, 2020, when Mars was just 38.57 million miles (62.07 million kilometers) from Earth.

So how long does it take to travel the almost 40 million miles to Mars? That depends on your speed. For example, the Perseverance rover traveled at a speed of about 24,600 mph (about 39,600 kph) and the journey took seven months , but that's because of where the Earth and Mars were at the time Perseverance was launched and where they were when it landed. If you could travel as fast as the New Horizons spacecraft (which is famous for visiting Pluto back in 2015), you could potentially reach Mars in as little as 39 days depending on the alignment of the planets and the 36,000 mph (58,000 kph) speed that New Horizons reached. Historically, spacecraft have taken anywhere between 128 days (Mariner 7 on a flyby) and 333 days (Viking 2 Orbiter/Lander, the second U.S. landing on Mars) .

Since no human has traveled to Mars yet, we don't have exact numbers on how fast it's possible to go – because remember, you need to slow down as you get closer to Mars. The best estimates are that human missions to Mars will be timed to take advantage of a good planetary alignment. Most estimates put the travel time in the range of 150-300 days – that's five to 10 months – and the average is usually around seven months , just like the Perseverance rover.

The two fastest travel times from Earth to Mars are for the Viking 6 and Viking 7 spacecraft, which took 155 and 128 days respectively . Both of these spacecraft were on flyby missions to image Mars, so they didn't need to slow down as they approached Mars as orbiters, landers and rovers need to do.

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Artist's concept of the Mars 2020 cruise stage

The cruise phase begins after the spacecraft separates from the rocket, soon after launch. The spacecraft departs Earth at a speed of about 24,600 mph (about 39,600 kph). The trip to Mars will take about seven months and about 300 million miles (480 million kilometers). During that journey, engineers have several opportunities to adjust the spacecraft’s flight path, to make sure its speed and direction are best for arrival at Jezero Crater on Mars. The first tweak to the spacecraft’s flight path happens about 15 days after launch.

Track the Spacecraft's Flight

The trip to mars.

  • Checking spacecraft health and maintenance
  • Monitoring and calibrating the spacecraft and its onboard subsystems and instruments
  • Performing attitude correction turns (slight spins to keep the antenna pointed toward Earth for communications, and to keep the solar panels pointed toward the Sun for power)
  • Conducting navigation activities, such as trajectory correction maneuvers, to determine and correct the flight path and train navigators before atmospheric entry. The last three correction maneuvers are scheduled during approach.
  • Preparing for entry, descent, and landing (EDL) and surface operations , a process which includes tests of communications, including the communications to be used during EDL.

The mission is timed for launch when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars. That is, it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. As Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different speeds and distances, once about every 26 months, they are aligned in a way that allows the most energy-efficient trip to Mars.

An illustration of the route the Mars 2020/Perseverance spacecraft takes to get to Mars.

Fine-Tuning the Flight Path to Mars

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Want to travel to Mars? Here’s how long the trip could take.

Nuclear engines or not, you're gonna need a lot of PTO to get to the Red Planet.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki | Published Feb 21, 2023 6:00 AM EST

The icy white south pole of Mars, with red soil all around.

Despite what Star Trek’s warp-speed journeys would have us believe, interplanetary travel is quite the hike. Take getting to Mars. Probes sent to the Red Planet by NASA and other space agencies spend about seven months in space before they arrive at their destination. A trip for humans would probably be longer—likely on the timescale of a few years. 

There are a lot of things that a human crew needs to survive that robots don’t, such as food, water, oxygen, and enough supplies for a return—the weight of which can slow down a spacecraft. With current technology, NASA calculations estimate a crewed mission to Mars and back, plus time on the surface , could take somewhere between two and three years. “Three years we know for sure is feasible,” says Michelle Rucker, who leads NASA’s Mars Architecture Team in the agency’s ​​ Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate .

But NASA aims to shorten that timeline, in part because it would make a Mars mission safer for humans—we still don’t know how well the human body can withstand the environment of space for an extended period. (The record for most consecutive days in space is 437.) The agency is investing in projects to develop new propulsion technologies that might enable more expeditious space travel. 

A crooked path to Mars

In a science-fictional world, a spacecraft would blast off Earth and head directly to Mars. That trajectory would certainly make for a speedier trip. But real space travel is a lot more complicated than going from point A to point B.

“If you had all the thrust you want, you could ignore the fact that there happens to be gravity in our universe and just plow all the way through the solar system,” says Mason Peck , a professor of astronautics at Cornell University who served as NASA’s chief technologist from 2011 to 2013. “But that’s not a scenario that’s possible right now.”

Such a direct trajectory has several challenges. As a spacecraft lifts off Earth, it needs to escape the planet’s gravitational pull, which requires quite a bit of thrust. Then, in space, the force of gravity from Earth, Mars, and the sun pulls the spacecraft in different directions. When it is far enough away, it will settle into orbit around the sun. Bucking that gravity requires fuel-intensive maneuvers.

[Related: Signs of past chemical reactions detected on Mars ]

The second challenge is that the planets do not stay in a fixed place. They orbit the sun, each at its own rate: Mars will not be at the same distance from Earth when the spacecraft launches as the Red Planet will be, say, seven months later. 

As such, the most fuel-efficient route to Mars follows an elliptical orbit around the sun, Peck says. Just one-way, that route covers hundreds of millions of miles and takes over half a year, at best. 

But designing a crewed mission to the Red Planet isn’t just about figuring out how fast a spacecraft can get there and back. It’s about “balance,” says Patrick Chai, in-space propulsion lead for NASA’s Mars Architecture Team . “There are a whole bunch of decisions we have to make in terms of how we optimize for certain things. Where do we trade performance for time?” Chai says. “If you just look at one single metric, you can end up making decisions that are really great for that particular metric, but can be problematic in other areas.”

One major trade-off for speed has to do with how much stuff is on board. With current technology, every maneuver to shorten the trip to Mars requires more fuel. 

If you drive a car, you know that in order to accelerate the vehicle, you step on the gas. The same is true in a spacecraft, except that braking and turning also use fuel. To slow down, for instance, a spacecraft fires its thrusters in the opposite direction to its forward motion.

But there are no gas stations in space. More fuel means more mass on board. And more mass requires more fuel to propel that extra mass through the air… and so on. Trimming a round-trip mission down to two years is when this trade-off starts to become exponentially less efficient, Rucker says. At least, that’s with current technology.

New tech to speed up the trip

NASA would like to be able to significantly reduce that timeline. In 2018, the space agency requested proposals for technological systems that could enable small, uncrewed missions to fly from Earth to Mars in 45 days or less . 

At the time, the proposals didn’t gain much traction. But the challenge inspired engineers to design innovative propulsion systems that don’t yet exist. And now, NASA has begun to fund the development of leading contenders. In particular, the space agency has its eye on nuclear propulsion.

Spacecraft currently rely largely on chemical propulsion. “You basically take an oxidizer and a fuel, combine them, and they combust, and that generates heat. You accelerate that heated product through a nozzle to generate thrust,” explains NASA’s Chai. 

Engineers have known for decades that a nuclear-based system could generate more thrust using a significantly smaller amount of fuel than a chemical rocket. They just haven’t built one yet—though that might be about to change.

One of NASA’s nuclear investment projects aims to integrate a nuclear thermal engine into an experimental spacecraft. The Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations , or DRACO, program, is a collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and aims to demonstrate the resulting technology as soon as 2027 .

[Related: Microbes could help us make rocket fuel on Mars ]

The speediest trip to Mars might come from another project, however. This concept, the brainchild of researchers at the University of Florida and supported by a NASA grant, seeks to achieve what Chai calls the “holy grail” of nuclear propulsion: a combination system that pairs nuclear thermal propulsion with an electric kind. 

“We did some preliminary analysis, and it seems like we can get pretty close to [45 days],” says the leader of that project, Ryan Gosse, a professor of practice in the University of Florida’s in-house applied research program, Florida Applied Research in Engineering (FLARE). One caveat: That timeline is for a light payload and no humans on board. However, if the project is successful, the technology could potentially be scaled up in the future to support a crewed mission.

The proposed DRACO nuclear propulsion rocket designed by DARPA, which could mean it doesn't take as long to travel to Mars. Concept art.

There are two types of nuclear propulsion, and both have their merits. Nuclear thermal propulsion, which uses heat, can generate a lot of thrust quickly from a small amount of fuel. Nuclear electric propulsion, which uses charged particles, is even more fuel-efficient but generates thrust much more slowly.

“While you’re in deep space, the electric propulsion is really great because you have all the time in the world to thrust. The efficiency, the miles per gallon, is far, far superior than the high-thrust,” Chai says. “But when you’re around planets, you want that oomph to get you out of the gravity well.”

The challenge, however, is that both technologies currently require different types of nuclear reactors, says Gosse. And that means two separate systems, which reduces the efficiency of having a nuclear propulsion system. So Gosse and his team are working to develop technology that can use the one system to generate both types of propulsion.

NASA’s Mars architecture team is also working with a bimodal concept that uses a chemical propulsion system to maneuver around planets and solar-powered electric propulsion to do the thrusting in deep space.

“What we are developing is different tools for the toolbox,” says NASA’s Rucker. “One tool isn’t going to be enough to do all of the exploration that we want to do. So we’re working on all of these.”

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The Nine Planets

The Nine Planets

How long does it take to get to Mars?

Mars is the most populated planet when it comes to robots. The famous Red Planet is located on average at around 1.5 AU or 228 million km / 142 million mi away from the Sun . At its farthest point, Mars is located at 1.6 AU away from the Sun, while its closest point, perihelion, is at 1.38 AU away. 1 AU – astronomical unit – is the equivalent of 150 million km / 93 million mi, and the Sun is 1 AU away from Earth.

(If you want to calculate how long it takes to get to stars, planets, and galaxies, try our space travel calculator)

travel time to mars from earth

Traveling At the Speed of Light Towards Mars

travel time to mars from earth

Traveling On One Of the Fastest Spacecraft Towards Mars

travel time to mars from earth

How Long Did It Take Other Spacecraft To Reach Mars?

The journey towards the Red Planet takes quite a bit of time, no matter how you look at it. But how long did it take for other probes or spacecraft to reach Mars? Here is a little list:

  • Mars Science Laboratory – Launched in 2011 – 254 days
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – 2005 – 210 days
  • Mars Express Orbiter – 2003 – 201 days
  • Mars Pathfinder – 1996 – 212 days
  • Mars Global Surveyor – 1996 – 308 days
  • Viking 2 – 1975 – 333 days
  • Viking 1 – 1975 – 304 days
  • Mariner 9 – 1971 – 168 days
  • Mariner 7 – 1969 – 128 days
  • Mariner 6 – 1969 – 155 days
  • Mariner 4 – 1965 – 228 days

How Long Will It Take SpaceX To Get To Mars?

travel time to mars from earth

Who Is Going to Mars in 2020 and 2023?

travel time to mars from earth

Can You Breathe on Mars?

Unfortunately, Mars’s atmosphere is made up of around 95% carbon dioxide. This means that you couldn’t breathe on the Red Planet, and you would almost instantly die of hypoxia. Apart from this, Mars is really a cold place with average surface temperatures reaching 21 degrees Celsius; however, in the night, temperatures drop to -62 degrees Celsius. The Martian dust is also dangerous to humans, as it is toxic, finely grained, and abrasive, which is terrible for our lungs if we were exposed to it.

travel time to mars from earth

The last thing to worry about would be radiation. Mars is full of it since its atmosphere, and lack of a global magnetic field means that the planet is showered by radiation through high-energy cosmic rays and solar particles. Astronomers will have to face all of these things if they ever get to Mars, but with our current technology, some of these problems might be easily solved. It remains to be seen what other new technologies we will have in the near future that would increase our chances of colonizing Mars.

Did you know?

  • The first spacecraft to orbit around Mars, was NASA’S Mariner 9 probe. It was sent to Mars in 1971, and it reached the Red Planet in just 168 days.
  • The first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars was Viking 1. This occurred in 1975. 
  • The first spacecraft to go to Mars was NASA’s Mariner 4. This happened in 1965, and it arrived at its destination in just 228 days.
  • Mars has two moons, namely Phobos and Deimos, but they are very small, both of them put together would still be smaller than our Moon.
  • Perseverance is headed towards Mars. The European Space Agency is preparing to send their own first rover to the Red Planet as well. The rover is named Rosalind Franklin, after the British DNA pioneer.
  • China is also planning to send a spacecraft to Mars – both a rover and orbiter. The United Arab Emirates has plans to send an orbiter to Mars in 2020 as well, but the current COVID crisis might hinder this.
  • Mars has only 11% of our Earth’s mass. It is the second-smallest planet in the Solar System , having a diameter of only 6.779 km / 4.212 mi (30% bigger than Mercury ), and a radius of 3.389 km / 2.105 mi.
  • It would take around 7 million Mars-sized planets to fill the Sun.

Image Sources:

  • https://www.vaisala.com/sites/default/files/styles/16_9_liftup_extra_large/public/images/LIFT-Mars%20the%20Red%20Planet-1600×900.jpg?itok=YXq-Cv1K
  • https://advancedtech.airliquide.com/sites/abt_at/files/styles/800×625/public/2016/12/06/mars-short-read-overlay1.jpg?itok=tZPadBNH
  • https://images.theconversation.com/files/88105/original/image-20150710-17473-idj453.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=926&fit=clip
  • https://i.insider.com/59dd480492406c2c768b4d7a?width=1136&format=jpeg
  • https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/mars2020/20200727/PIA23491-16.jpg
  • https://www.sciencealert.com/images/2019-02/processed/MarsOneBankrupt2019_1024.jpg
  • https://planetary-science.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/6a00d8341bf7f753ef01b7c705f443970b-800wi.jpg

Universe Today

Universe Today

Space and astronomy news

travel time to mars from earth

How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?

This article originally appeared in Universe Today in July, 2012, but it’s been updated with a related video.

The planet Mars is one of the brightest objects in the night sky, easily visible with the unaided eye as a bright red star. Every two years or so, Mars and Earth reach their closest point, called “opposition”, when Mars can be as close as 55,000,000 km from Earth. And every two years, space agencies take advantage of this orbital alignment to send spacecraft to the Red Planet. How long does it take to get to Mars?

The total journey time from Earth to Mars takes between 150-300 days depending on the speed of the launch, the alignment of Earth and Mars, and the length of the journey the spacecraft takes to reach its target. It really just depends on how much fuel you’re willing to burn to get there. More fuel, shorter travel time.

History of Going to Mars:

The first spacecraft ever to make the journey from Earth to Mars was NASA’s Mariner 4, which launched on November 28, 1964 and arrived at Mars July 14, 1965, successfully taking a series of 21 photographs. Mariner 4’s total flight time was 228 days.

The next successful mission to Mars was Mariner 6, which blasted off on February 25, 1969 and reached the planet on July 31, 1969; a flight time of only 156 days. The successful Mariner 7 only required 131 days to make the journey.

The NASA team threw in every bit of data they could to model the Mars Curiosity landing. Credit: NASA

Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to successfully go into orbit around Mars launched on May 30, 1971, and arrived November 13, 1971 for a duration of 167 days. This is the same pattern that has held up for more almost 50 years of Mars exploration: approximately 150-300 days.

Here are some more examples:

  • Viking 1 (1976) – 335 days
  • Viking 2 (1976) – 360 days
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2006) – 210 days
  • Phoenix Lander (2008) – 295 days
  • Curiosity Lander (2012) – 253 days

Why Does it Take So Long?:

A top-down image of the orbits of Earth and Mars. Image: NASA

When you consider the fact that Mars is only 55 million km away, and the spacecraft are travelling in excess of 20,000 km/hour, you would expect the spacecraft to make the journey in about 115 days, but it takes much longer. This is because both Earth and Mars are orbiting around the Sun. You can’t point directly at Mars and start firing your rockets, because by the time you got there, Mars would have already moved. Instead, spacecraft launched from Earth need to be pointed at where Mars is going to be .

The other constraint is fuel. Again, if you had an unlimited amount of fuel, you’d point your spacecraft at Mars, fire your rockets to the halfway point of the journey, then turn around and decelerate for the last half of the journey. You could cut your travel time down to a fraction of the current rate – but you would need an impossible amount of fuel.

How to Get to Mars with the Least Amount of Fuel:

The primary concern of engineers is how to get a spacecraft to Mars, on the least amount of fuel. Robots don’t really care about the hostile environment of space, so it makes sense to decrease the launch costs of the rocket as much as possible.

NASA engineers use a method of travel called a Hohmann Transfer Orbit – or a Minimum Energy Transfer Orbit – to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars with the least amount of fuel possible. The technique was first proposed by Walter Hohmann who published the first description of the maneuver in 1925.

Instead of pointing your rocket directly at Mars, you boost the orbit of your spacecraft so that it’s following a larger orbit around the Sun than the Earth. Eventually that orbit will intersect the orbit of Mars – at the exact moment that Mars is there too .

If you need to launch with less fuel, you just take longer to raise your orbit, and increase the journey to Mars.

Other Ideas to Decrease the Travel Time to Mars:

Although it requires some patience to wait for a spacecraft to travel 250 days to reach Mars, we might want a completely different propulsion method if we’re sending humans. Space is a hostile place, and the radiation of interplanetary space might pose a longterm health risk to human astronauts. The background cosmic rays inflict a constant barrage of cancer-inducing radiation, but there’s a bigger risk of massive solar storms, which could kill unprotected astronauts in a few hours. If you can decrease the travel time, you reduce the amount of time astronauts are getting pelted with radiation, and minimize the amount of supplies they need to carry for a return journey.

Go Nuclear: One idea is nuclear rockets , which heat up a working fluid – like hydrogen – to intense temperatures in a nuclear reactor, and then blast it out a rocket nozzle at high velocities to create thrust. Because nuclear fuels are far more energy dense than chemical rockets, you could get a higher thrust velocity with less fuel. It’s proposed that a nuclear rocket could decrease the travel time down to about 7 months

Go Magnetic: Another proposal is a technology called the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (or VASIMR). This is an electromagnetic thruster which uses radio waves to ionize and heat a propellant. This creates an ionized gas called plasma which can be magnetically thrust out the back of the spacecraft at high velocities. Former astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz is pioneering the development of this technology, and a prototype is expected to be installed on the International Space Station to help it maintain its altitude above Earth. In a mission to Mars, a VASIMR rocket could reduce the travel time down to 5 months.

Go Antimatter: Perhaps one of the most extreme proposals would be to use an antimatter rocket . Created in particle accelerators, antimatter is the most dense fuel you could possibly use. When atoms of matter meet atoms of antimatter, they transform into pure energy, as predicted by Albert Einstein’s famous equation: E = mc 2 . Just 10 milligrams of antimatter would be needed to propel a human mission to Mars in only 45 days. But then, producing even that minuscule amount of antimatter would cost about $250 million.

Artist's concept of Antimatter propulsion system. Credit: NASA/MFSC

Future Missions to Mars:

Even though some incredible technologies have been proposed to shorten the travel time to Mars, engineers will be using the tried and true methods of following minimum energy transfer orbits using chemical rockets. NASA’s MAVEN mission will launch in 2013 using this technique, as well ESA’s ExoMars missions. It might be a few decades before other methods become common techniques.

Research further: Information about Interplanetary Orbits – NASA 7 Minutes of Terror – The Challenge of Landing at Mars NASA Proposal for a nuclear rocket engine Hohmann Transfer Orbits – Iowa State University Minimum Transfers and Interplanetary Orbits New and Improved Antimatter Space Ship for Mars Missions – NASA Astronomy Cast Episode 84: Getting Around the Solar System

Related Stories from Universe Today: Travel to Mars in Only 39 Days A One Way, One Person Mission to Mars Could a Human Mission to Mars be Funded Commercially? How Will MSL Navigate to Mars? Very Carefully A Cheap Solution to Getting to Mars? Why have so many missions to Mars failed?

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2 Replies to “How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?”

WOW thats CRAZY:)

214 days of exposure to high levels of radiation – how would a crew be shielded?

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StarLust

How long does it take to get to Mars?

Last Updated: December 13, 2022

If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what it would be like to visit Mars, you’re not alone. Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, has long been the subject of human curiosity and exploration.

For centuries, humans have been fascinated by the red planet, and with recent advances in space technology, the dream of traveling to Mars is closer than ever. But just how long does it take to get there?

The answer, of course, is not a simple one. There are many factors that can affect the duration of a journey to Mars, including the trajectory of the spacecraft, the speed of the spacecraft, and the position of Mars in its orbit around the Sun.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these factors and provide some examples of past and future missions to Mars to give you a sense of the range of possible travel times.

Going to Mars, Facts to Consider

Mars, the Earth, and all the others planets are constantly revolving around the Sun. This means that their position is always different. For example, Earth moves around the Sun at a speed of 18 miles / 30 kilometers per second.

When we look at Mars, it moves with a speed of 14.3 miles / 23.3 kilometers per second around the Sun. Before starting a trip to mars, astronomers have to calculate the best position to launch a spacecraft toward it. 

This means that they need to estimate at what point in time will the Red Giant be and in what direction the spacecraft will be launched. You also have to consider that you can’t launch a spacecraft at any point in time to reach Mars at an exact timeframe. You have to consider the position of both planets beforehand. 

Take this into consideration. Mars is at an average distance of 140 million miles / 225 million kilometers away from Earth. In 2003, our planets reached their closest point (perihelion) at a distance of only 33.9 million mi / 54.6 million km. However, this approach doesn’t happen every month. It occurs every two years or so. The aphelion or farthest distance between Mars and Earth is at 250 million mi / 401 million km.

Related reading: How Far Away is Mars From Earth Right Now?

You can imagine all the different necessary calculations and estimations that astronomers must go through when preparing for a trip to Mars. Not to mention that you also need to take into account that if you reach Mars, you will also need to stay for several months there until the planets are in the perfect position to maximize your fuel efficiency. 

Some predictions for a human-crewed mission to Mars and back to Earth are situated at the 21-month mark. But it may take more or less depending on the technology involved. You also need to consider all the possible delays or unexpected issues.

Picture of Mars in the night sky, seen without the help of a telescope or binoculars.

The Necessary Speed to Reach Mars

The Apollo 11 mission to the Moon reached an incredible top speed of 25,000 mph to reach the Moon in four days. If you were to go to Mars with the same technology, you would reach it in two and a half months. Yet, you must consider that maintaining this speed for so long is impossible. Not to mention the amount of fuel you would need, which implies a more massive spacecraft to store it, and since the spacecraft size will be different, other factors will affect your speed and fuel consumption.

Currently, the fastest spacecraft we have is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe . In 2021, the Parker Solar Probe reached a top speed of 364,621 mph / 586,000 kph. This is 14.5 times faster than the Apollo 11 spacecraft’s top speed.

If the Parker Solar Probe would be sent to Mars, it may reach it in 16 days. If we were to imagine a straight line between the probe and the Red Planet, and if the probe would be launched at the closest encounter between our two planets, it may reach it in 93 hours or so. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to space travel. Not to mention the issue mentioned earlier, the fact that planets aren’t static, and thus there is no constant distance. 

Astronomers have to predict where a planet will be once they launch a spacecraft. How long it takes to get to Mars depends mostly on where the Red Giant and our planet are situated, when the spacecraft is launched, and what propulsion systems are used. 

According to NASA , a mission to Mars would take around nine months if you begin your trip when the planets are properly lined up. The perfect window to get to Mars from Earth occurs once every 26 months. If we develop better ways to burn up fuel, we could reach Mars even faster, but our current technology is still very limiting.

Related Article: How Much of Space Have We Explored So Far?

Overview of Mars

Flight time of past missions to Mars

In the history of space exploration, there have been many missions to Mars, some successful and others not. As I mentioned in the intro, Mars has been the subject of interest for scientists for a long time. Especially when it comes to the prospect of finding signs of life on another planet.

Regardless of their different goals, the one thing that all of these missions have in common is that they all took a significant amount of time to reach the red planet. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the flight times of some of the past missions to Mars and see how they compare to each other.

  • Mariner 4 (1964) had a flight time of 228 days.
  • Mariner 6 (1969) got to the red planet in 156 days.
  • Mariner 7 (1969) got to Mars in 128 days.
  • Mariner 9 (1971) reached the red planet in 167 days.
  • Viking 1 (1976) took on an 11-month cruise to Mars.
  • Viking 2 (1976) had a flight time of 360 days.
  • Mars Odyssey (2001) reached the dusty planet in about 200 days.
  • Mars Express (2003) completed its journey in around 6 months.
  • Opportunity Rover (2003) landed on Marse after 201 days spent in space.
  • Spirit (2003) touched down in Gusev crater after traveling for 179 days.
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005) took 210 days to reach its destination.
  • Phoenix (2007) completed its travel to Mars in  295 days
  • Curiosity (2011) touched down on the martian surface after a trip lasting 253 days.
  • MAVEN (2013) entered the martian orbit after a 10-month trip.
  • Insight (2018) reached Mars in 206 days.
  • Perseverance, the latest rover to make it to Marse, did the trip Earth-Mars in 204 days.

Curiosity Rover

Future Missions to Mars

Technology always evolves, and astronomers are always looking for new ways to conduct space missions and shorten their flights. NASA already works on something new that may help Mars missions. 

The Space Launch System (SLS) is under construction and will conduct various tests that will help upcoming Missions to Mars, perhaps even manned missions. One of the first SLS rockets being designed for future Mars and Moon missions is the Artemis 1.

Artemis 1 just recently completed a near-flawless mission to the Moon and broke Apollo 13’s flight distance record. It is currently the most powerful rocket ever built. The future Artemis missions to the Moon will help establish new technologies and strategies to reach Mars. 

With our current technology, we need more field tests in order to be sure of what is to come. However, the successful mission of Artemis 1 proves once again that mankind’s determination is unyielding. Through Artemis 2 , we might have a new crew land on the Moon as soon as 2024 or 2025. Any successful mission on the Moon brings us closer to planetary missions, and the good news is that nowadays there are more space companies willing to do the job than ever before!

Reaching Mars at the Speed of Light

If you were to go to Mars using the speed of light , you would reach it in about three minutes at their closest possible approach. The speed of light is around 186,000 mi / 300,000 km per second. Reaching the speed of light is a goal for any interplanetary mission. However, it is unknown if humans can travel at such speed without consequences or if it is possible to reach this speed at all.

Between the first moon landing and the commercialization of spaceships are only 50 years of rapid development. The impending collaborations of multinational associations like NASA, Roscosmos, CSA, and private companies are set to be game changers for humanity. The upcoming decade promises entirely new opportunities, from Moon settlements and out-worldly discoveries to breathtaking experiences accessible for tourists and businessmen alike. 

daniel

Written by Hrenciuc Daniel

Hello, my name is Daniel and I am a space enthusiast. I love everything related to space and SCFI, and although I like both Star Wars and Star Trek, I believe we will find something entirely different out there. I am an astronomy writer with a passion for both history and mythology. Each star has its tale. Let me tell you their story!

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Mars, the “red planet,” has been irresistible to us for many years. It captures our attention because it’s visible in the night sky, being the third brightest planet. Scientists debate the idea of living on Mars , and movies with extra-terrestrials fascinate us. NASA’s Mars Mission spent years on research and sent five mars rover there to explore its rugged geography and thin atmosphere.

This Mars Explorer poster shows the rovers that have been sent to Mars to explore the planet. 

But just how far away is Mars, and is it really a viable option for humans to visit? The distance from Earth to Mars depends on their orbits around the Sun, so determining travel time can be a bit tricky.

According to NASA, the closest recorded distance to Mars from Earth was 34.8 million miles (54.6 million kilometers) in August 2003. When Mars is behind the Sun, the farthest distance, the two planets are 249.1 million miles (401 million kilometers) apart.

travel time to mars from earth

Changing orbits

Mars and Earth don’t have circular orbits , which is the reason for the discrepancies in distances. Mars has an elliptical orbit . An elliptical orbit is a path that revolves around another object in an oval-shape. The planets in our solar system orbit around the Sun on elliptical paths.

As a result of its orbit, Mars comes closer to the Sun and other planets at certain moments. Mars is closest to Earth approximately every 26 months.

Despite advances in space travel, it would take anywhere from nine months to a few years to reach Mars. Scientists estimate it would take longer for astronauts to reach Mars because oxygen, food, supplies, and gas to refuel would hamper the spacecraft’s speed.

Discoveries from Rover explorations

This image was taken during the first drive of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars on March 4, 2021

The NASA Rovers took seven months to get to Mars. The Rovers gave scientists a wealth of data about the planet by collecting samples of rocks. They have used witness tubes to collect molecular and particulate   contaminants. Some examples are:

• Rivers and lakes flowed on Mars in the past

• The raw ingredients for life were found (sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon)

• Methane (from chemical reactions) was detected

• Two types of radiation are a health risk to humans. One is galactic cosmic rays , and the other is solar energetic particles .

Obstacles to living on Mars once humans get there

Mars’ bleak environment is dangerous and unsustainable for human life. The amount of oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere is 0.16 percent, which is drastically lower than Earth’s 21.0 percent. Carbon dioxide comprises 96 percent of Mars’ atmosphere, with argon  and nitrogen contributing minor amounts.

At night, the temperature can drop to −195 degrees Fahrenheit (−125 degrees Celsius) and at day it can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).

Mars is inhospitable for farming as it lacks water, sunlight, and oxygen. Mars’ soil contains perchlorate , a toxic chemical that would make consuming plants grown there toxic.

Even though Mars would be a long journey from Earth, the intrigue of traveling there does not dwindle. Faster trips will be made possible with investments in modern spacecraft designs and technology.

Readability: 58.7

Flesch Kincaid Grave Level: 8.4

Orbit : an orbit is a regular, repeating path that one object in space takes around another one

Elliptical orbit : an elliptical orbit is an oval-shaped path, like a slightly elongated circle

Mars Rover : a robotic vehicle that explored the surface of Mars

Witness tubes : sample tubes that will hold Martian rock and sediment, except they have been preloaded with a variety of materials that can capture mole contaminants. This will help scientists tell which materials in the Martian materials may be of Earth origin.

Particulate : consisting of extremely small particles of a substance or substances

Galactic cosmic rays (GCR): the slowly varying, highly energetic background source of energetic particles that constantly bombard Earth. GCR originate outside the solar system and are likely formed by explosive events such as supernova.

Solar energetic particles : high-energy, charged particles originating in the solar atmosphere and solar wind. The solar wind is a stream of energetic particles ejected by the Sun.

Perchlorate : a naturally occurring and manmade chemical that can affect the functioning of the thyroid gland at sufficiently high doses

Atmosphere : an atmosphere is made of the layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body

Argon : a colorless, odorless gas that is totally inert (not chemically reactive) to other substances

The Planet Mars. https://www.weather.gov/fsd/mars

Mars Exploration. https://mars.nasa.gov/all-about-mars/facts/

Kuthunur, Sharmila. How Far Away is Mars ? https://lovethenightsky.com/how-far-away-is-mars/

Edelman Planetarium. Best Time to View Mars . 2022 Archives. https://sites.rowan.edu/planetarium/blog/2022/11/mars_opposition2022.html

Botkin-Kowaki, Eva. Want to Travel to Mars? Here’s How Long the Trip Could Take . February 21, 2023. https://www.popsci.com/science/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-to-mars/

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></center></p><h2>Start typing and press enter to search</h2><h2>How long does it take to get to Mars, and how far is it? Nasa Perseverance rover’s landing mission explained</h2><p>It took around seven months for nasa's perseverance rover to reach the red planet.</p><p><center><img style=

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has landed safely on Mars, starting a new mission to look for signs of ancient life.

The rover left Earth at the end of July last year, and after a tense few moments ahead of landing, it confirmed its successful arrival.

But just how far away is Mars and how long does it take it get there?

How far away is Mars?

The distance between Earth and Mars is not always the same, as both planets are on constant orbits around the Sun.

The Nasa Perseverance travelled around 293 million miles (471 million kilometers) to get to Mars.

According to Nasa , the closest the two planets can theoretically be to each other is 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers).

TOPSHOT - This NASA photo shows the first images from NASAs Perseverance rover as it landed on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021. - NASA said February 18, 2021 that the Perseverance rover has touched down on the surface of Mars after successfully overcoming a risky landing phase known as the "seven minutes of terror." "Touchdown confirmed," said operations lead Swati Mohan at around 3:55 pm Eastern Time (2055 GMT) as mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory headquarters erupted in cheers. The autonomously-guided procedure was completed more than 11 minutes earlier, which is how long it takes for radio signals to return to Earth. (Photo by Handout / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NASA/HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by HANDOUT/NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

The closest recorded distance to Mars was in 2003 when Mars was recorded as 34.8 million miles (56 million km) – but the next time they are expected to come this close is the year 2287.

The last Mars “close approach” was in October 2020, when Mars was 38.6 million miles (62.07 million kilometers) from Earth.

Close approaches, which happen around every 26 months, are a good time to plan missions to Mars, Nasa said, as Earth and Mars are closest together on their orbits.

The furthest the two planets can be from each other is around 250 million miles (401 million km) apart.

How long does it take to get to Mars?

The time it takes to get to Mars varies, as of course, it’s not a staightforward journey.

It took the Perseverance around 7 months to get to Mars.

Past missions to Mars, including flybys, have varied in time, taking between 128 days and around 330 days to make the journey.

According to Space.com , travelling at the speed of light, (186,282 miles per second/299,792 km per second) it would take a minimum of just over three minutes to reach Mars.

On average, a light shined on to the red planet’s surface would take around 12 and a half minutes to reach it’s destination.

How did the Nasa Perserverance rover landed on the red planet?

Nasa’s Mars Perseverance rover launched on July 30, 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in the US.

It travelled for around seven months before landing safely on the surface of the red planet on February 18, 2021 just before 9pm (GMT).

Confirmation of the safe landing took more than 11 minutes to reach Earth and was met by jubilation from Nasa scientists, after a few tense minutes.

I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere. #CountdownToMars — NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021

Steve Jurczyk, Nasa’s acting administrator, said: “It’s amazing to have Perseverance join Curiosity on Mars and what a credit to the team.

“Just what an amazing team to work through all the adversity and all the challenges that go with landing a rover on Mars, plus the challenges of Covid.

“And just an amazing accomplishment.”

The rover has since sent back pictures of the planet’s rocky surface, and more footage is expected from the robot soon.

The mission’s goal is to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples for a future return to Earth from diverse environments on Mars.

Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples using its drill, and will store the sample cores in tubes on the Martian surface ready for a return mission to bring around 30 samples to Earth in the early 2030s.

It will also include testing out new technologies and try out the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

Additional reporting by PA.

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Disclaimer: The following material is being kept online for archival purposes.

Although accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. the page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers., #21b     flight to mars: how long along what path, above is background material for archival reference only..

Earth to Mars Distance: How Long Does It Take To Get to Mars

Interplanetary travel, especially to Mars, has garnered significant interest from space agencies and innovators. NASA and Elon Musk have ambitious plans for Mars missions, despite the considerable journey duration.

While robotic probes take approximately seven months to reach Mars, human missions could extend to a few years, especially with the formidable challenge of space exploration.

Earth to Mars Distance: How Long Does It Take to Get to Mars

Distance Between Earth and Mars

The time it takes to reach Mars depends on the constantly changing distance between the two planets . While Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second closest to Earth after Venus, their separation varies as they orbit the Sun.

The closest possible approach, theoretically, occurs when Mars is at its perihelion (closest point to the Sun), and Earth is at its aphelion (farthest point), bringing the planets about 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers) apart. However, this alignment has never occurred in recorded history.

The closest documented approach transpired in 2003, with the planets being 34.8 million miles (56 million km) apart. Conversely, Earth and Mars are farthest from each other when they are on opposite sides of the sun, creating a distance of up to 250 million miles (401 million km). The average separation between Earth and Mars is approximately 140 million miles (225 million km).

READ ALSO: NASA Orion Spacecraft in Production Stage for Upcoming Artemis Moon Missions, In-Space Environment Simulation Performed

Uncrewed Trips to Mars From Earth

Mars orbits the Sun once every 687 Earth days, which leads to varying distances between Earth and Mars, with relatively close alignments approximately every 26 months. Due to the elliptical nature of their orbits, some close approaches are closer than others. For instance, on October 6, 2020, Mars was as close as 38.57 million miles (62.07 million kilometers) to Earth.

The duration of a journey to Mars  depends on the speed of the spacecraft. For example, the Perseverance rover, traveling at around 24,600 mph (39,600 kph), took seven months to reach Mars. However, this travel time was influenced by the positions of Earth and Mars at the launch and landing times.

If a spacecraft could match the speed of the New Horizons probe, which reached 36,000 mph (58,000 kph) during its mission to Pluto, it could potentially reach Mars in as little as 39 days, contingent on planetary alignment.

As humans have not journeyed to Mars yet, precise travel times remain uncertain. Estimates suggest that human missions will capitalize on favorable planetary alignments, with expected travel durations falling within the range of 150 to 300 days, typically around seven months, mirroring the Perseverance rover's journey.

How Long Will It Take for a Crewed Flight To Reach the Red Planet?

Unlike robots, human crews on a Mars mission require essential supplies like food, water, oxygen, and return provisions, which can significantly increase the spacecraft's weight and duration of the journey.

Presently, NASA's estimates suggest a round-trip crewed mission to Mars , including surface time, may last two to three years, with three years deemed feasible.

Check out more news and information on Mars Exploration  in Science Times.

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travel time to mars from earth

Planet Mars

  • How Long Would It Take To Travel To Mars?

Humanity has dreamed of travelling to Mars for decades. As of yet, the only place humans have set foot on (other than Earth) is the moon . The moon presented humanity with one of its greatest challenges, yet in 1969, NASA overcame the challenge when the astronauts of Apollo 11 set foot on the lunar surface. Ever since the Apollo Program ended, NASA has slowly been developing the technology required to send humans to Mars. One of the primary purposes of the International Space Station has been to study the long term effects of space travel on the human body. In order for humans to eventually travel to Mars, they will need to survive in space for extended periods of time, yet just how long would it take to travel to Mars?

Distance To Mars

Mars

Mars is the second closest planet to Earth after Venus , yet it is still very far away. On average, the distance between Mars and Earth is about 140 million miles (225 million kilometres). To traverse that distance would likely take several months to years depending on how fast of a rocket you have. However, the distance between Mars and Earth actually changes. Both Mars and Earth orbit the sun in ellipses, meaning the  distance between them and the sun changes during their orbits. When the Earth is at furthest point from the sun and Mars is at its closest approach, the two planets are at their closest distance. When Mars and Earth happen to align in just the right way, the distance between them can be 34 million miles (54.6 million kilometres). That is significantly lower than the average distance between the two planets, and so it would make sense to send humans to Mars when the two planets are at their closest approach to each other. Unfortunately, this alignment does not happen often. The closest distance between Earth and Mars ever recorded was in 2003, when the two planets came within 35 million miles (56 million kilometres) of each other. An event such as this will only occur every couple hundred years, with the next closest approach predicted to happen in the year 2237. 

Mars and Earth rarely lineup so that the distance between them is at its minimum, but astronomers still take advantage of the fact that, at some points in their orbits, Mars and Earth are much closer together than on average. Every 26 months, Mars and Earth line up in such a way that it is most efficient to send spacecraft to the Red Planet. This means that there is one launch window to Mars every 26 months. 

Speed Of A Rocket

Mars rover

The distance to Mars itself is not the only factor that will determine how long it takes to travel to Mars. The speed at which a spacecraft moves will also determine the length of the trip. Past missions to Mars have generally taken anywhere from 128 days to nearly one full year. With current technology and rocket designs, NASA estimates that the first rockets carrying humans to Mars will achieve speeds of about 24,600 miles per hour (39,600 kilometres per hour). Moving at these speeds, it would take approximately seven months to reach the surface of Mars.

What If You Went Faster?

Assuming the technology is advanced enough, how quickly could you reach Mars? Currently, the fastest human-made object is the Parker Solar Probe, which has achieved speeds of 364,660 miles per hour (586,860 kilometers kilometres per hour). Moving at this speed, it would take about two weeks to reach Mars while it’s at its average distance from Earth. Travelling to Mars within only two weeks would be astonishing, yet unfortunately it would not be possible with current technology. The Parker Solar Probe has been able to attain such extreme speeds by slingshotting itself around the sun multiple times. In the far future, if humanity ever develops the technology to travel near the speed of light , we could travel to Mars in less than five minutes. For now, the first astronauts to travel to Mars will have to wait several months in space before arriving at the Red Planet. 

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Problem Set

Let's go to mars calculating launch windows.

This activity is related to a Teachable Moment from Oct. 31, 2016. See " When Computers Were Human. "

› Explore more on the Teachable Moments Blog

This activity is designed for students familiar with advanced algebra concepts. In this lesson, students will:

  • Use algebraic computations to determine the relative positions of Earth and Mars during which an optimal (low-energy) transfer of a spacecraft can occur.
  • Combine this information with planetary-position data to determine the next launch opportunity to Mars.

Graph paper, quadrille ruled (one piece per student)

8.5-by-11-inch or larger piece of thick cardboard (per student)

Two push-pins (per student)

String, approximately 30 cm (per student)

Planetary heliocentric longitudes for appropriate years (search for “planetary heliocentric longitudes” along with the applicable years)

When a spacecraft is launched from Earth, its forward velocity combined with the gravitational pull of Earth cause it to travel in a curved path. As the spacecraft heads toward another planet, the gravitational pull of that planet factors in to the path the spacecraft takes. The more a spacecraft can “coast” with engines off, the lower the cost of the mission (rocket fuel is not cheap!).

Think of a quarterback throwing a football to a receiver. The initial impulse (throw) is all the football gets as far as power is concerned. The football follows a curved path into the hands of the receiver. Likewise, the quarterback throws the football to where the receiver is going to be, not necessarily to where the receiver is currently. So, the quarterback throws the football downfield as the receiver is running in that direction. In a perfectly thrown pass, the receiver’s running speed will bring him or her to the exact spot where the football arrives at hand-level.

Launching to Mars is similar to this. A spacecraft is given an initial impulse (launch) toward Mars and then shuts off its engines and coasts (obeying Newton’s First Law) until it gets close to its target. Depending on the mission, the spacecraft may slow down – to get into orbit or land – by using the Martian atmosphere or retro-rockets that fire opposite to the direction of travel (obeying Newton’s Third Law).

Though a spacecraft could follow a variety of curved paths from Earth to Mars, one path called the Hohmann transfer orbit uses the least energy and is thereby considered to be the most efficient.

The Hohmann transfer is an elliptical orbit with the sun at one focus of the ellipse that intersects the orbit of the target planet. Launch occurs when Earth is at Hohmann perihelion (the point of the Hohmann orbit that is closest to the sun). Arrival occurs when Mars is at Hohmann aphelion (the point of the Hohmann orbit that is farthest from the sun).

Depending on mission objectives and spacecraft characteristics, engineers will use variations on the Hohmann transfer orbit to get spacecraft to Mars. These variations can make travel time more or less lengthy than a standard Hohmann transfer.

To make sure the spacecraft and Mars arrive at the same place at the same time, the spacecraft must launch within a particular window of time. This window is called the “launch window” and, depending on the target, can be a few minutes or as much as a few weeks in length.

If a spacecraft is launched too early or too late, it will arrive in the planet’s orbit when the planet is not there.

When launched within the proper launch window, the spacecraft will arrive in the planet’s orbit just as the planet arrives at that same place. At this point, the spacecraft is positioned for either going into orbit about the planet or landing on the planet.

Calculating orbit trajectories and launch windows is a complex task involving a variety of parameters that may or may not be constantly changing. In order to make this task accessible to high-school students, some variable parameters have been stabilized and some assumptions have been made. This problem, with these simplifications, allows students to generate an approximation of the launch window to Mars.

  • Explain to students that launching to Mars requires a spacecraft to travel in an elliptical orbit about the sun such that the spacecraft and Mars will arrive in the same place at the same time. Their task in this exercise is to determine when we should next launch to Mars.
  • The orbits of Earth and Mars are circular and centered on the sun. (Earth’s orbit is more circular than Mars’ orbit, but they are both slightly elliptical.)
  • Earth and Mars travel at constant speeds. (They do not. See Kepler’s Second Law).
  • The orbits of Earth and Mars are in the same plane. (They are close but slightly out of plane with one another).

Use string and a pushpin to draw a circular orbit.

Use string and two pushpins to draw the elliptical Hohmann transfer orbit.

  • Have students use Kepler’s Third Law, the Law of Harmony, to determine the period of the Hohmann transfer orbit and then the travel time to Mars along this orbit. Kepler’s Third Law states that the square of the period of any planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit. An equation can represent this relationship: P 2 =ka 3 with k being the constant of proportionality Using Earth as an example, we can measure P in years and a in astronomical units so P = 1 year and a = 1 AU. Thus, P 2 =ka 3 →k=1 => P 2 =a 3 P 2 = (1.26 AU) 3 => P ~ 1.41 years ~ 517 days The full period of this Hohmann transfer orbit is 517 days. Travel to Mars encompasses half of one orbit, so approximately 259 days.
  • Using the planetary heliocentric longitudes, approximately when is the next opportunity for a launch to Mars?
  • Must a spacecraft be launched at an exact moment in the launch window? What happens if it is launched early or late?
  • Research: What is the average length of a launch window to Mars?
  • Approximately when was the most recent opportunity for a launch to Mars? What countries took advantage of that opportunity and launched to Mars at that time? What is the current status of those missions? Were they successful?
  • Have students create a spreadsheet that will subtract heliocentric longitudes for Earth and Mars to simplify launch window calculations.
  • Relative to Mars, where is Earth in its orbit when the spacecraft arrives?

Explore More

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How NASA and SpaceX Will Get People From Earth to Mars and Safely Back Again

By Chris James, The University of Queensland April 25, 2021

First Humans on Mars

This artist’s concept depicts astronauts and human habitats on Mars. NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover carries a number of technologies that could make Mars safer and easier to explore for humans. Credit: NASA

There are many things humanity must overcome before any return journey to Mars is launched.

The two major players are NASA and SpaceX , which work together intimately on missions to the International Space Station but have competing ideas of what a crewed Mars mission would look like.

Size matters

The biggest challenge (or constraint) is the mass of the payload (spacecraft, people, fuel, supplies, etc.) needed to make the journey.

We still talk about launching something into space being like launching its weight in gold.

The payload mass is usually just a small percentage of the total mass of the launch vehicle.

For example, the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 to the Moon weighed 3,000 tonnes.

But it could launch only 140 tonnes (5% of its initial launch mass) to low Earth orbit, and 50 tonnes (less than 2% of its initial launch mass) to the Moon.

Mass constrains the size of a Mars spacecraft and what it can do in space. Every maneuver costs fuel to fire rocket motors, and this fuel must currently be carried into space on the spacecraft.

SpaceX’s plan is for its crewed Starship vehicle to be refueled in space by a separately launched fuel tanker. That means much more fuel can be carried into orbit than could be carried on a single launch.

SpaceX Dragon Landing on Mars

Concept art of SpaceX’s Dragon landing on Mars. Credit: SpaceX

Time matters

Another challenge, intimately connected with fuel, is time.

Missions that send spacecraft with no crew to the outer planets often travel complex trajectories around the Sun. They use what are called gravity assist maneuvers to effectively slingshot around different planets to gain enough momentum to reach their target.

This saves a lot of fuel, but can result in missions that take years to reach their destinations. Clearly, this is something humans would not want to do.

Both Earth and Mars have (almost) circular orbits and a maneuver known as the Hohmann transfer is the most fuel-efficient way to travel between two planets. Basically, without going into too much detail, this is where a spacecraft does a single burn into an elliptical transfer orbit from one planet to the other.

A Hohmann transfer between Earth and Mars takes around 259 days (between eight and nine months) and is only possible approximately every two years due to the different orbits around the Sun of Earth and Mars.

A spacecraft could reach Mars in a shorter time (SpaceX is claiming six months) but — you guessed it — it would cost more fuel to do it that way.

Mars

Mars and Earth have few similarities. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Safe landing

Suppose our spacecraft and crew get to Mars. The next challenge is landing.

A spacecraft entering Earth is able to use the drag generated by interaction with the atmosphere to slow down. This allows the craft to land safely on the Earth’s surface (provided it can survive the related heating).

But the atmosphere on Mars is about 100 times thinner than Earth’s. That means less potential for drag, so it isn’t possible to land safely without some kind of aid.

Some missions have landed on airbags (such as NASA’s Pathfinder mission) while others have used thrusters (NASA’s Phoenix mission). The latter, once again, requires more fuel.

Life on Mars

A Martian day lasts 24 hours and 37 minutes but the similarities with Earth stop there.

The thin atmosphere on Mars means it can’t retain heat as well as Earth does, so life on Mars is characterized by large extremes in temperature during the day/night cycle.

Mars has a maximum temperature of 30℃ (86ºF), which sounds quite pleasant, but its minimum temperature is -140℃ (-220ºF), and its average temperature is -63℃ (-81ºF) . The average winter temperature at the Earth’s South Pole is about -49℃ (-56ºF) .

So we need to be very selective about where we choose to live on Mars and how we manage temperature during the night.

The gravity on Mars is 38% of Earth’s (so you’d feel lighter) but the air is principally carbon dioxide (CO₂) with several percent of nitrogen, so it’s completely unbreathable. We would need to build a climate-controlled place just to live there.

SpaceX plans to launch several cargo flights including critical infrastructure such as greenhouses, solar panels and — you guessed it — a fuel-production facility for return missions to Earth.

Life on Mars would be possible and several simulation trials have already been done on Earth to see how people would cope with such an existence.

NASA Astronauts on Mars With Helicopter

This illustration shows NASA astronauts working on the surface of Mars. A helicopter similar to the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is airborne at left. Ingenuity is being carried aboard the Perseverance rover; it was recently deployed to the Martian surface to test whether future helicopters could accompany robotic and human missions. Credit: NASA

Return to Earth

The final challenge is the return journey and getting people safely back to Earth.

Apollo 11 entered Earth’s atmosphere at about 40,000km/h (25,000 mph), which is just below the velocity required to escape Earth’s orbit.

Spacecraft returning from Mars will have re-entry velocities from 47,000km/h to 54,000km/h (29,000 mph to 34,000 mph), depending on the orbit they use to arrive at Earth.

They could slow down into low orbit around Earth to around 28,800km/h (17,900 mph) before entering our atmosphere but — you guessed it — they’d need extra fuel to do that.

If they just barrel into the atmosphere, it will do all of the deceleration for them. We just need to make sure we don’t kill the astronauts with G-forces or burn them up due to excess heating.

These are just some of the challenges facing a Mars mission and all of the technological building blocks to achieve this are there. We just need to spend the time and the money and bring it all together.

View of Earth From Space

And we need to return people safely back to Earth, mission accomplished. Credit: NASA

Written by Chris James, Lecturer, Centre for Hypersonics, The University of Queensland.

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17 comments on "how nasa and spacex will get people from earth to mars and safely back again".

travel time to mars from earth

The main issue being ignored is the need for artificial gravity in route. Without artificial gravity in route the astronauts will have to crawl out of the spaceship once on Mars. A fully functioning astronaut is one who has been conditioned to the gravity on Mars, or Earth, during the journey. Treadmills be damned, use a revolving capsule to live and work in during the trip. Go into microgravity as required but not all of the time.

travel time to mars from earth

One way to get to Mars faster would be to go towards the moon, swing around the moon. Then use the Earth for gravity assist to Mars. Might then have to wait for the right time for the position of the moon.

travel time to mars from earth

Why? Why go there? Won’t we just start messing with the climate there, ruining the environment there like we’re doing here?

travel time to mars from earth

Not to mention all of the stellar and cosmic radiation that the crew would likely absorb in transit and on the surface.

travel time to mars from earth

So Chris, has the ‘Cabin Fever’ problem been addressed? You do know what I mean by that don’t you? Astronauts all cooped up and nowhere to go; to get away from each other, take a space stroll, some solitude, alone time. Anything to keep from killing each other. Eh?

travel time to mars from earth

No mention of the radiation issues. Both in deep space and on Mars. You may survive the mission only to be riddled with cancer on your return.

However…

“Space is the natural habitat of humans. A planet, is after all, is a object in space.” – Frank Herbert

travel time to mars from earth

So….. where’s the Boring tunneler? Clearly Elon’s companies on Earth are just a trial run and funding source for Mars. They’ll have an entire subterranean city and solar+storage farm built before anyone steps foot on the Red Planet.

travel time to mars from earth

Wouldn’t it be more secure to live be on Mars underground? Elon Musk’s borer would make short work of it. Especially if it could be done remotely.

travel time to mars from earth

Improve earth.stop spoiling earth.Lets make earth heaven again

travel time to mars from earth

What about if we all stop for a moment and better think about how to save our own planet earth 🌎 which is suffering due to our negligence! Let’s make our own paradise and then if you want to leave in Jupiter! Go ahead and do it! But let’s save our own planet first! Stop destroying it.

What about if we all stop for a moment and better think about how to save our own planet earth 🌎 which is suffering due to our negligence! Let’s make our own paradise and then if you want to live in Jupiter! Go ahead and do it! But let’s save our own planet first! Stop destroying it. Spending millions of dollars in stupid stuff while our beautiful sea lions’ home have been destroy due to climate change! WHAT ABOUT IF WE THINK FIRST HOW WE CAN RECOVER OUR MOTHER EARTH 🌎 FIRST!!!

travel time to mars from earth

I think this will never happen as there is no signs in any religion discussing life expect this planet. This will not happen.

If humans are sent to Mars it should be with the intention of it being permanent. Not like it was going to the moon and then not going back now going on 50 plus years. Just make the commitment like Kennedy did and do it! Life’s a dance, you learn as you go.

travel time to mars from earth

I agree there are lots of issues with traveling to Mars

Well the climate change is because of Joe Biden so lets thank him for killing all our precious animals effected by this stupid Presidential decision on f’ing with our climate change acting like there ain’t nothing at risk with trying to change it. honestly Trump is our only saviour and I’m Mexican and had family taken by immigration but Trump has more potential than Biden ever will. Biden is hurting us Mexican more than Trump ever had. by taking the jobs we came to the US 🇺🇸 for in the first place climate change is not what we need. And our presence on Mars should and will help the chance at further life on Mars even though death is a possibility and will happen but it will also help transforming Mars to a liveable planet in the process.

travel time to mars from earth

There are so many issues going there. The landing might be one of the trickiest since they need a lot of supplies with them. Enough food (edible and healthy), oxygen and water. And also having enough fuel to go back. I do not see this happening any time soon.

why cracking heads for what is not necessary knowing that death will still come. pls use your time For God.

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Nasa’s perseverance rover is midway to mars, jet propulsion laboratory, work continues en route, more about the mission.

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Sometimes half measures can be a good thing – especially on a journey this long. The agency’s latest rover only has about 146 million miles left to reach its destination.    

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission has logged a lot of flight miles since being lofted skyward on July 30 – 146.3 million miles (235.4 million kilometers) to be exact. Turns out that is exactly the same distance it has to go before the spacecraft hits the Red Planet’s atmosphere like a 11,900 mph (19,000 kph) freight train on Feb. 18, 2021.

“At 1:40 p.m. Pacific Time today, our spacecraft will have just as many miles in its metaphorical rearview mirror as it will out its metaphorical windshield,” said Julie Kangas, a navigator working on the Perseverance rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “While I don’t think there will be cake, especially since most of us are working from home, it’s still a pretty neat milestone. Next stop, Jezero Crater .”

The Sun’s gravitational influence plays a significant role in shaping not just spacecraft trajectories to Mars (as well as to everywhere else in the solar system), but also the relative movement of the two planets. So Perseverance’s route to the Red Planet follows a curved trajectory rather than an arrow-straight path.

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has logged 146.3 million (235.4 million kilometers) of space miles – exactly half of what will be covered before reaching the Red Planet. View the full interactive experience at Eyes on the Solar System . Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Although we’re halfway into the distance we need to travel to Mars, the rover is not halfway between the two worlds,” Kangas explained. “In straight-line distance, Earth is 26.6 million miles [42.7 million kilometers] behind Perseverance and Mars is 17.9 million miles [28.8 million kilometers] in front.”

At the current distance, it takes 2 minutes, 22 seconds for a transmission to travel from mission controllers at JPL via the Deep Space Network to the spacecraft. By time of landing, Perseverance will have covered 292.5 million miles (470.8 million kilometers), and Mars will be about 130 million miles (209 million kilometers) away from Earth; at that point, a transmission will take about 11.5 minutes to reach the spacecraft.

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover reached its halfway point

The mission team continues to check out spacecraft systems big and small during interplanetary cruise. Perseverance’s RIMFAX and MOXIE instruments were tested and determined to be in good shape on Oct. 15. MEDA got a thumbs up on Oct. 19. There was even a line item to check the condition of the X-ray tube in the PIXL instrument on Oct. 16, which also went as planned.

“If it is part of our spacecraft and electricity runs through it, we want to confirm it is still working properly following launch,” said Keith Comeaux, deputy chief engineer for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission. “Between these checkouts – along with charging the rover’s and Mars Helicopter’s batteries , uploading files and sequences for surface operations, and planning for and executing trajectory correction maneuvers – our plate is full right up to landing.”

A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology , including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). 

Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans .

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers.

For more about Perseverance:

mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

nasa.gov/perseverance

For more information about NASA’s Mars missions, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

DC Agle Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 818-393-9011 [email protected]

Grey Hautaluoma / Alana Johnson NASA Headquarters, Washington 202-358-0668 / 202-358-1501 [email protected]  /  [email protected]

How Far Away Is Mars?

The fourth planet in our solar system, Mars, is often seen as a yellow-orange star in our night skies.

It’s probably the most likely planet to be thought of as Earth’s ‘sister’ world but, actually, Mars is further away from us than Venus and it’s quite a bit smaller than our home planet .

Although it resides at an average distance of nearly 142 million miles from Earth, it comes close enough to see its surface features with a simple telescope. 

travel time to mars from earth

Let’s find out how and when this happens. 

The Distance of Mars From Earth Changes Over Time 

At its closest possible approach, Mars is 35.8 million miles away from Earth. Its closest approach in 2022 was on 30 November, when came within 50.6 million miles of us. The farthest Mars gets away from our planet is 249.1 million miles.

We know that Earth has an elliptical orbit around the Sun . Mars’ orbit, on the other hand, is more oval compared to Earth’s. In addition to this, Earth’s closeness to the Sun leads it to complete two orbits in the time that it takes Mars to complete one.

As a result, as both planets revolve in their respective orbits, the distance between then changes. There are times when Mars and its two moons are behind the Sun, which leads to the alignment of Mars, the Sun, and Earth. At this point, known as a conjunction , Mars is as far away as it can be from Earth, at nearly 249.1 million miles (401 million kilometers).

As the distance keeps changing, Mars’ closest approach to Earth occurs when both planets are on the same side of the Sun, called opposition. At this time, Earth is placed in between our Sun and Mars, reducing the distance between planets to nearly 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) . 

Although the Martian orbital period is about 23 months, opposition occurs every 26 months (two years and two months, or 791 days to be exact). During each of these times, Mars is closest to Earth and shines the largest and brightest. In fact, its apparent magnitude changes from -0.5 to -2.7 as it moves from its farthest away to its nearest, respectively. 

travel time to mars from earth

Since there is no clear cut answer to the distance between Earth and Mars, we can instead try to understand Mars’ closest, farthest, and average distances with respect to Earth. 

Mars’ Closest Approach to Earth

Mars is closest to Earth during its opposition when Mars is on the same side of the Sun as Earth but directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The smallest that this distance can be is 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km). The planets’ orbits make opposition happen every 26 months.  

The dates and distances for recent and upcoming oppositions are given below: 

The fact that both Earth and Mars orbit in elliptical orbits indicates that there will be changes in them over time. The closest approach between the two planets was in 2018, when they were only 35.8 million miles apart, a distance that will not be beaten until September 2035 .

Opposition is the best time to see Mars from your backyard. Use a suitable planetary telescope and look to its surface, through the almost non-existent Martian atmosphere , to spy Mars’ major surface features .

Mars’ Furthest Distance From the Sun

Mars is furthest from Earth at solar conjunctions. The maximum distance that this can be is 249.1 million miles (401 million km) . 

The dates for the most recent and next few solar conjunctions are given below: 

During solar conjunctions, Mars will be on the other side of the Sun , closer to it than to Earth. It will have a separation of only 0 degrees and 16 seconds, making it impossible to observe under the Sun’s glare. This is also the time that Mars is smallest and faintest. 

Average Distance of Mars

The closest and furthest distances of Mars from Earth happen every 26 months. The average distance of Mars from Earth hovers around 142 million miles (229 million km). 

Now, it is important to note that these figures are not set in stone, but are useful approximations to remember. 

How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?

It takes anywhere between 39 days to 333 days for a spaceship to get to Mars. Light, on the other hand, travels to Mars in 12 minutes and 42 seconds at its average distance of 142 million miles.

So far, in this article, we have learned the distance from Earth to Mars at two important points in its orbit. We can now proceed to understand how long it takes to get to the famous red planet . 

There are two ways to go about this. First, we will look at the time light takes to reach Mars. 

Next, we will board a spaceship (imaginatively, of course) and see how long it’ll take us to travel to the fourth planet in our solar system (we cannot travel at the speed of light, so this should be an interesting analysis). 

Let’s go! 

How Long Does Light Take to Travel from Mars to Earth?

Light travels the fastest of all known objects because it has no mass. Its speed is a whopping 186,282 miles per second. At this rate, let’s take a look at the shortest, longest, and the average time for light to travel between the two planets: 

Shortest = 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) = 193 seconds = 3 minutes and 13 seconds.

Average = 142 million miles (229 million km) =  762.2 seconds = 12 minutes and 42 seconds.

Furthest = 249 million miles (401 million km) = 1336.6 seconds = 22 minutes and 16 seconds. 

At its average distance of 142 million miles, light takes 12 minutes and 42 seconds to reach Earth from Mars. As the planets orbit the Sun, this time varies between 3 minutes 13 seconds and 22 minutes 16 seconds. 

This also means that when you look at Mars in the morning skies, you are seeing it as it looked at least 3 minutes 13 seconds ago and maybe as long as 22 minutes 16 seconds ago! 

These calculations are if we could travel at the speed of light, which, unfortunately, we cannot. So let’s look at how long it would take us humans to get to Mars. 

How Long Does it Take a Spaceship to Travel to Mars? 

A spaceship takes around nine months to travel to Mars from Earth.

Until now, we have been focused on understanding how Mars’ and Earth’s orbits work. In order to get to Mars, considering the speed of our spaceship and the route it takes is also very important. Let’s take a look at past missions to see how long they took: 

In addition to the speed of the spaceship, the travel time to Mars also depends on the path taken.

The shortest distance is a straight line between the two planets. However, since the planets are constantly in motion, the path we follow is never so straightforward. Also, a spacecraft’s speed has to slow as it reaches Mars so that it can be captured by its gravitational field (and not fly away into space due to high speed). 

It takes between 128 days to 333 days to fly to Mars in a spacecraft.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth was the New Horizons which explored Pluto . At its record speed of 36,000 miles per hour, if New Horizons were launched for Mars, it would take 942 hours or 39 days to reach.

The shortest time a spacecraft has taken to get to Mars from Earth is 128 days (Mariner 7). The longest journey took 333 days (Viking 2).

Mars is a fascinating planet that moves closer towards and then further away from us as we both orbit the sun.

Although it might be less pretty when it is far away, its oppositions occur once every 26 months , during which it will shine seven times brighter than at its dimmest.

While we cannot hop on a spacecraft just yet to go to Mars, remembering these concepts next time you glance at the red planet will make your observations more interesting!

Want to read more, click here to find out why Mars is red.

Sharmila Kuthunur

Sharmila Kuthunur is an astronomy science writer based in the US. She has been a bibliophile for as...

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How Many Moons Does Mars Have, And Can I See Them With A Telescope?

How Many Moons Does Mars Have, And Can I See Them With A Telescope?

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From Earth to Mars

The way forward to Mars

NOTE: In March 2022 the second part of the ExoMars mission was put on hold but this article and related graphics remain for background

The path that ExoMars 2022 will follow to reach the Red Planet is set. The trajectory that will take the spacecraft from Earth to Mars in 264 days foresees a touchdown on the martian surface on 10 June 2023, at around 17:30 CEST (15:30 UTC).

The weather at Mars, the type of launcher and the laws of physics governing the planets determined a 12-day launch window starting on 20 September 2022.

Efficient orbital transfers, good communications and no large dust storms on the martian horizon make the chosen trajectory the fastest and safest choice.

Choosing the best path

10: Taking control and staying in touch

When confronted with how to get to Mars, European and Russian teams have to juggle many factors. The mission analysis team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany took into account the performance of Russia’s Proton launcher to identify a number of possible trajectories.

“We had several transfer trajectories to choose from and a spacecraft already built for the trip,” says Mattia Mercolino, ExoMars principal systems engineer. “These variables imposed on us constraints linked to power, temperature thresholds and orientation towards Earth during the first stages of the flight, among others.”

Being able to communicate with the spacecraft also played a major role. 

“One of the alternatives had a longer launch window, but a worse connection with the spacecraft during the first days. This choice was too risky, especially when you want to have full control at the beginning of the mission,” explains Tiago Loureiro, ExoMars spacecraft operations manager.

ExoMars timeline

The final trajectory takes a bit longer – one week more – and the launch sequence requires more manoeuvres, but this wasn’t only about earthly constraints. “We needed to understand the challenges unique to our destination. Mars orbital characteristics and dust storms were crucial to our decision,” says Tiago.

Riders on the storm

Oxia Planum close up

Dust storms are frequent on Mars, but also difficult to predict. Seasons play a role, with stormy weather more likely to happen during the spring and summer in the southern hemisphere. ExoMars landing site is Oxia Planum, located in the northern hemisphere.

Threatening global-scale dust storms tend to happen approximately every ten years. The most recent one was in 2018.

Although ExoMars will land outside the dust storm season, a build-up of dust on the solar panels will reduce power supply and could even force a temporary shutdown of ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover and the Russian surface platform, dubbed Kazachok.

“We went through a number of studies and tests to ensure that all systems would survive with reduced sunlight upon the late afternoon landing, and during surface operations the following weeks,” adds Tiago.

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European scientists want to operate the rover on Mars for as long as possible. Rosalind Franklin can cope with regional dust storms for a few days and with layers of fine dust covering its solar panels.

“A global dust storm that blankets the atmosphere for several months would most likely result in the death of the rover,” warns Jorge Vago, ESA’s ExoMars rover project scientist.

“That is why it is so important to achieve most of the mission objectives before the problematic dust season starts,” he adds.

Earth at work

It took the teams at ESOC a few months of work to narrow down the final launch date and trajectory to Mars. “The whole challenge is fantastic – I think I have the best job in the world,” says Tiago.

“Launching a spacecraft, shooting it across the Solar System, hoping it lands in one piece, deploying it, driving it on Mars… And we will do all of this without the luxury of interacting with the spacecraft or the rover in real time,” he explains.

ExoMars carrier module and surface platform

Sending the first European rover to Mars requires true teamwork. Each and every command has been carefully planned together with the Russian partners, involving several control centres and countries.

ESA will control the communications between Rosalind Franklin and the Kazachok surface platform during their first days on Mars. As part of the ExoMars programme, the Trace Gas Orbiter , which has been circling Mars for nearly four years, will serve as a data relay platform to support communications.

A few weeks after landing, and only when the surface platform is safe and able to operate independently, ESA will hand over the control of Kazachok to Roscosmos.

About ExoMars

The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between the Roscosmos State Corporation and ESA. Apart from the 2022 mission, it includes the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) launched in 2016. The TGO is already both delivering important scientific results obtained by its own Russian and European science instruments and relaying data from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and InSight lander. The module will also relay the data from the ExoMars 2022 mission once it arrives on Mars.

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Mars attracts: How Earth's interactions with the red planet drive deep-sea circulation

by University of Sydney

Mars attracts: How Earth's interactions with the red planet drive deep-sea circulation

Scientists from the Universities of Sydney and Sorbonne University have used the geological record of the deep sea to discover a connection between the orbits of Earth and Mars, past global warming patterns and the speeding up of deep ocean circulation.

They discovered a surprising 2.4-million-year cycle where deep currents wax and wane, which in turn is linked to periods of increased solar energy and a warmer climate .

The study, published in Nature Communications , tackles the questions of how geological-timescale climate change affects ocean circulation and how this could help scientists model future climate outcomes. The researchers sought to find whether ocean-bottom currents become more vigorous or more sluggish in a warmer climate.

These cycles are not linked to the current rapid global warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. However, the study has identified deep eddies associated with warming seas that could counter ocean stagnation predicted to impact the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) that drives the Gulf Stream and maintains temperate climates in Europe.

Lead author ARC Future Fellow Dr. Adriana Dutkiewicz from the University of Sydney EarthByte Group in the School of Geosciences and co-authors used more than half a century of scientific drilling data from hundreds of sites worldwide to understand the vigor of deep-sea currents through time.

Dr. Dutkiewicz said, "A break in sedimentation indicates vigorous deep-sea currents, while continuous sediment accumulation indicates calmer conditions. Combining these data with advanced spectral data analysis has allowed us to identify the frequency of breaks in sedimentation over 65 million years."

In a collaboration with Professor Dietmar Müller (University of Sydney) and Associate Professor Slah Boulila (Sorbonne), Dr. Dutkiewicz used the deep-sea sediment records to check for links between sedimentary shifts and changes in Earth's orbit.

They found that the vigor of deep-sea currents shifts in 2.4-million-year cycles.

These cycles are called "astronomical grand cycles," predicted to occur due to the interactions of Earth and Mars orbits. However, evidence for this is rarely detected in the geological record.

Dr. Dutkiewicz said, "We were surprised to find these 2.4-million-year cycles in our deep-sea sedimentary data. There is only one way to explain them: they are linked to cycles in the interactions of Mars and Earth orbiting the sun."

Co-author Professor Müller added, "The gravity fields of the planets in the solar system interfere with each other, and this interaction, called a resonance, changes planetary eccentricity, a measure of how close to circular their orbits are."

For Earth, it means periods of higher incoming solar radiation and warmer climate in cycles of 2.4 million years. The researchers found that the warmer cycles correlate with an increased occurrence of breaks in the deep-sea record, related to more vigorous deep ocean circulation .

This result is unexpected, as indications from observations and ocean models suggest that the current Atlantic circulation system, the AMOC that produces the Gulf Stream, may shut down in a warmer climate due to sea-ice melting.

However, Professor Müller said, "The freezing and melting of sea ice is not the only mechanism influencing deep ocean circulation. Deep-ocean eddies are predicted to intensify in a warming, more energetic climate system as major storms become more frequent."

These eddies are like giant whirlpools and often reach the abyssal seafloor, resulting in seafloor erosion and large sediment accumulations called contourites, akin to snowdrifts.

Dr. Dutkiewicz said, "Our deep-sea data spanning 65 million years suggest that warmer oceans have more vigorous deep circulation. This will potentially keep the ocean from becoming stagnant even if Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slows or stops altogether."

How the interplay between different processes driving deep-ocean dynamics and ocean life may play out in the future is still not well known, but the authors hope that their new results will help with building better climate models.

Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by University of Sydney

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Mars Has an Unexpected Influence on Earth’s Oceans and Climate, Repeating Every 2.4 Million Years, Study Finds

The gravitational interactions between Mars and Earth as they orbit the sun may have periodically promoted a warmer climate and changes in ocean circulation on our home planet

Catherine Duncan

Catherine Duncan

Staff Contributor

Mars

In an astonishing cosmic cycle that occurs every 2.4 million years, Mars’ gravitational pull is shifting Earth’s path around the sun, warming its climate and increasing vigorous deep ocean circulation, according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications .

“Mars’ impact on Earth’s climate is akin to a butterfly effect,” study co-author Dietmar Müller , a geophysicist at the University of Sydney in Australia, tells New Scientist ’s James Woodford. He acknowledges the Red Planet is too far to have an immense gravitational impact on our world. “But there are so many feedbacks that can amplify even subtle changes.”

By poring through 65 million years of deep-sea sediment records, researchers analyzed Earth’s history of ocean current behavior. They sampled nearly 300 drill cores, which documented how these currents behaved over time. Breaks in sedimentation indicated the presence of vigorous deep-sea currents, while continuous sedimentation represented calmer conditions.

The team found the strength of these currents waxed and waned over 2.4-million-year cycles, known as “astronomical grand cycles.” Comparing this fluctuation to astronomical events, researchers found an unexpected connection: Each cycle coincided with records of gravitational interactions between Earth and Mars.

“We were surprised to find these 2.4-million-year cycles in our deep-sea sedimentary data,” says Adriana Dutkiewicz , lead author of the study and sedimentologist at the University of Sydney, in a statement . “There is only one way to explain them: They are linked to cycles in the interactions of Mars and Earth orbiting the sun.”

As the two planets chart their orbital paths, their gravitational fields interact in a process called resonance, Müller says in the statement. This cosmic exchange alters how circular Earth’s orbit around the sun is—and consequently, how close the planet is to solar energy. During periods with greater exposure to solar radiation, the Earth adopts a warmer climate. And with this warmer climate, the amount of vigorous ocean currents was found to increase.

Researchers describe the currents, also called eddies, as “giant whirlpools” that often stretch down to the abyssal seafloor and erode the area, driving the accumulation of large amounts of sediment in snowdrift-like walls.

These natural, gravitationally induced climate cycles are not tied to the current and rapid global warming, which is a product of excessive greenhouse gas emissions. However, studying the eddies’ response to warmer climates across long periods of time can provide scientists with crucial insight into how climate change affects ocean circulation.

If human-produced global warming continues along its current path, “this effect will dwarf all other processes for a long time to come,” Muller tells CNN ’s Laura Paddison. “But the geographical record still provides us with valuable insights about how the oceans operate in a warmer world.”

With climate change, scientists have suggested a vital ocean current system called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)—which transports warm water north and cold water south—could soon collapse. A study last year found the system will likely shut down sometime this century —and as soon as 2025.

The new research indicates the cosmic cycle that drives deep ocean eddies could help bolster ocean circulation in the event of an AMOC collapse.

“We know there are at least two separate mechanisms that contribute to the vigor of deep-water mixing in the oceans. AMOC is one of them, but deep ocean eddies seem to play an important role in warm climates for keeping the ocean ventilated,” says Müller in the statement.

Still, some scientists remain unconvinced by certain aspects of the research. Matthew England , who studies ocean circulation at the University of New South Wales in Australia and was not involved in the study, tells New Scientist he isn’t sure the Red Planet is to blame for these cycles.

“I’m skeptical of the link to Mars, given its gravitational pull on Earth is so weak—at only about one one-millionth of that of the sun,” he tells the publication. “Even Jupiter has a stronger gravitational field for Earth.”

Joel Hirschi , associated head of marine systems modeling at the National Oceanography Center in England who was not involved in the study, tells CNN that the findings in relation to Mars’ influence on ocean currents were significant. But, he adds that the “proposed link with the ocean circulation is speculative.” Though eddies have grown in activity over the past decades, satellite observations have shown their currents aren’t always able to reach the seafloor and maintain effective ventilation, he tells the publication.

Still, researchers remain hopeful that the 2.4-million-year cycle, and the increased circulation it may regulate, could provide a necessary fallback for ocean systems in the climate crisis.

“Our deep-sea data spanning 65 million years suggests that warmer oceans have more vigorous deep circulation,” adds Dutkiewicz in the statement. “This will potentially keep the ocean from becoming stagnant, even if Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slows or stops altogether.”

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Catherine Duncan

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Catherine Duncan is an intern with  Smithsonian magazine.

Highlights From SpaceX’s Starship Test Flight

The powerful rocket, a version of which will carry astronauts to the moon for NASA, launched for the third time on Thursday morning. It achieved a number of milestones before losing contact with the ground.

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Kenneth Chang

Kenneth Chang

Here’s what happened during the third test flight of the most powerful rocket ever built.

Spacex launches starship for third time, the rocket, a version of which will eventually carry nasa astronauts to the moon, traveled almost halfway around the earth before it was lost as it re-entered the atmosphere..

“Five, four, three, two, three, one.” “This point, we’ve already passed through Max-Q, maximum dynamic pressure. And passing supersonic, so we’re now moving faster than the speed of sound. Getting those on-board views from the ship cameras. Boosters now making its way back, seeing six engines ignited on ship. Kate, we got a Starship on its way to space and a booster on the way back to the Gulf.” “Oh, man. I need a moment to pick my jaw up from the floor because these views are just stunning.”

Video player loading

The third try turned out to be closer to the charm for Elon Musk and SpaceX, as his company’s mammoth Starship rocket launched on Thursday and traveled about halfway around the Earth before it was lost as it re-entered the atmosphere.

The test flight achieved several key milestones in the development of the vehicle, which could alter the future of space transportation and help NASA return astronauts to the moon.

This particular flight was not, by design, intended to make it all the way around the Earth. At 8:25 a.m. Central time, Starship — the biggest and most powerful rocket ever to fly — lifted off from the coast of South Texas. The ascent was smooth, with the upper Starship stage reaching orbital velocities. About 45 minutes after launch, it started re-entering the atmosphere, heading toward a belly-flop splashdown in the Indian Ocean.

Live video, conveyed in near real-time via SpaceX’s Starlink satellites , showed red-hot gases heating the underside of the vehicle. Then, 49 minutes after launch, communications with Starship ended, and SpaceX later said the vehicle had not survived the re-entry, presumably disintegrating and falling into the ocean.

Even so, Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA, congratulated SpaceX on what he called a “successful test flight” of the system his agency is counting on for some of its Artemis lunar missions.

SpaceX aims to make both the vehicle’s lower rocket booster and the upper spacecraft stage capable of flying over and over again — a stark contrast to the single-launch throwaway rockets that have been used for most of the space age.

That reusability gives SpaceX the potential to drive down the cost of lofting satellites and telescopes, as well as people and the things they need to live in space.

Completing most of the short jaunt was a reassuring validation that the rocket’s design appears to be sound. Not only is Starship crucial for NASA’s lunar plans, it is the key to Mr. Musk’s pipe dream of sending people to live on Mars.

For Mr. Musk, the success also harks back to his earlier reputation as a technological visionary who led breakthrough advances at Tesla and SpaceX, a contrast with his troubled purchase of Twitter and the polarizing social media quagmire that has followed since he transformed the platform and renamed it X. Even as SpaceX launched its next-generation rocket, the social media company was dueling with Don Lemon , a former CNN anchor who was sharing clips from a combative interview with Mr. Musk.

SpaceX still needs to pull off a series of formidable rocketry firsts before Starship is ready to head to the moon and beyond. Earlier this week, Mr. Musk said he hoped for at least six more Starship flights this year, during which some of those experiments may occur.

But if it achieves them all, the company could again revolutionize the space transportation business and leave competitors far behind.

Phil Larson, a White House space adviser during the Obama administration who also previously worked on communication efforts at SpaceX, said Starship’s size and reusability had “massive potential to change the game in transportation to orbit. And it could enable whole new classes of missions.”

NASA is counting on Starship to serve as the lunar lander for Artemis III, a mission that will take astronauts to the surface of the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. That journey is currently scheduled for late 2026 but seems likely to slide to 2027 or later.

The third flight was a marked improvement from the first two launch attempts.

Last April, Starship made it off the launchpad, but a cascade of engine failures and fires in the booster led to the rocket’s destruction 24 miles above the Gulf of Mexico.

In November, the second Starship launch traveled much farther. All 33 engines in the Super Heavy booster worked properly during ascent, and after a successful separation, the upper Starship stage nearly made it to orbital velocities. However, both stages ended up exploding.

Nonetheless, Mr. Musk hailed both test flights as successes, as they provided data that helped engineers improve the design.

Thursday’s launch — which coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the founding of SpaceX — occurred 85 minutes into a 110-minute launch window. The 33 engines in the booster ignited at the launch site outside Brownsville, Texas, and lifted the rocket, which was as tall as a 40-story building, into the morning sky.

Most of the flight proceeded smoothly, and a number of test objectives were achieved during the flight, like opening and closing the spacecraft’s payload doors, which will be needed to deliver cargo in the future.

SpaceX did not attempt to recover the booster this time, but did have it perform engine burns that will be needed to return to the launch site. However, the final landing burn for the booster, conducted over the Gulf of Mexico, did not fully succeed — an area that SpaceX will attempt to fix for future flights.

SpaceX said the Super Heavy disintegrated at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.

SpaceX engineers will also have to figure out why Starship did not survive re-entry and make fixes to the design of the vehicle.

Even with the partial success of Thursday’s flight, Starship is far from ready to go to Mars, or even the moon. Because of Mr. Musk’s ambitions for Mars, Starship is much larger and much more complicated than what NASA needs for its Artemis moon landings. For Artemis III, two astronauts are to spend about a week in the South Pole region of the moon.

“He had the low price,” Daniel Dumbacher, the executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a former high-level official at NASA, said of Mr. Musk, “and NASA chose to take the risk associated with that configuration hoping that it would work out. And we’ll see if that turns out to be true.”

To leave Earth’s orbit, Starship must have its propellant tanks refilled with liquid methane and liquid oxygen. That will require a complex choreography of additional Starship launches to take the propellants to orbit.

“This is a complicated, complicated problem, and there’s a lot that has to get sorted out, and a lot that has to work right,” Mr. Dumbacher said.

Thursday’s flight included an early test of that technology, moving liquid oxygen from one tank to another within Starship.

Mr. Dumbacher does not expect Starship to be ready by September 2026, the launch date NASA currently has for Artemis III, although he would not predict how much of a delay there might be. “I’m not going to give you a guess because there is way too much work, way too many problems to solve,” he said.

Michael Roston

Kenneth Chang and Michael Roston

A rare sight: Starship’s bright orange glow as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Just past the 45-minute mark of the Starship vehicle’s journey through space on Thursday, something eerie happened. As it drifted high above Earth’s oceans and clouds, the spacecraft’s silvery exterior was overtaken by a brilliant and fiery orange glow.

Starship re-entering Earth's atmosphere. Views through the plasma pic.twitter.com/HEQX4eEHWH — SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 14, 2024

When a spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere, the air beneath it gets hot — hot enough that it turns into a plasma of charged particles as electrons are stripped away from the air molecules. The charged particles create picturesque glows, like neon signs.

But seeing this happen in nearly real-time during a spaceflight is uncommon. That plasma disrupts radio signals, cutting off communication.

Such blackouts happen, for instance, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule returns to Earth from the International Space Station with its complement of four astronauts. Mission controllers must wait with bated breath to be reassured that the spacecraft’s heat shield has held up and protected the crew during atmospheric re-entry.

Until Starship succumbed to the intense forces of re-entry on Thursday, SpaceX used its Starlink internet satellites to relay the live video feed. The Starlink satellites are in higher orbits, and sending signals upward — away from the plasma — is easier than trying to communicate through it to antennas on the ground.

But Starship wasn’t the only spacecraft in recent weeks to give us a view of plasma heating. Varda Space, a startup that is developing technology for manufacturing in orbit, had cameras on a capsule it landed on Earth on Feb. 21. Before it parachuted to the ground, its Winnebago capsule recorded a day-glow re-entry. The company retrieved the video recording from the capsule and shared it online:

Here's a video of our capsule ripping through the atmosphere at mach 25, no renders, raw footage: pic.twitter.com/ZFWzdjBwad — Varda Space Industries (@VardaSpace) February 28, 2024

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Jeff Bezos’s rocket company could race SpaceX to the moon.

Which billionaire space company will get to the moon first: Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin?

At first glance, SpaceX seems to have a huge head start. It is about to launch the third test flight of Starship. A variation of Starship is scheduled to take NASA astronauts to the surface of the moon as soon as September 2026.

By contrast, Blue Origin has yet to launch anything into orbit, and its contract with NASA for a lunar lander for astronauts is for a mission that is launching in 2030.

But Blue Origin might still get there first. SpaceX faces major challenges with Starship, which is as tall as 16-story building, while Blue Origin plans to send a smaller cargo lander to the moon by the end of next year.

“This lander, we’re expecting to land on the moon between 12 and 16 months from today,” John Couluris, senior vice president of lunar permanence at Blue Origin, said during a n interview on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” this month.

The first launch of the Mark 1 version of the Blue Moon lander is what Blue Origin calls a “pathfinder” to test technologies like the BE-7 engine, the flight computers, avionics and power systems — the same systems that will be used in the much larger Mark 2 lander that will take astronauts to the moon’s surface.

The Mark 1 lander can carry up to three tons of cargo to the lunar surface, but will be small enough to fit inside one of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rockets . New Glenn has yet to fly, but the company says its debut journey will occur later this year.

After Blue Moon Mark 1 is launched into an orbit about 125 miles above Earth’s surface, the lander’s BE-7 engine will propel it toward the moon, slowing it down to enter orbit around the moon and then guiding it to the landing on the surface.

The smaller size means that the Mark 1 lander, unlike Starship, will not need to be refueled before leaving Earth orbit. Demonstrating that refueling technology in orbit will be a key test to validate Starship’s design. Refueling will also be needed for the Blue Moon Mark 2 lander.

Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos have already been beaten to the moon by another billionaire, Kam Ghaffarian , one of the founders of Intuitive Machines, which put a small robotic lander named Odysseus near the lunar south pole in February . That was the first private spacecraft to successfully make it to the moon’s surface in one piece (although its journey had some hiccups ).

As with every American rocket mishap, the Federal Aviation Administration will open an investigation to review what went wrong and what SpaceX needs to do to correct it. But if, as Elon Musk says, there are at least six more Starship flights this year, SpaceX will have opportunities to complete a full test flight.

Starship's third flight went very far, but like its first two flights, it was not a complete success. The landing burn for the Super Heavy booster stage of the rocket — the aim was to “land” it in the Gulf of Mexico — was not fully successful, and the Starship craft did not survive re-entry. But it was marked significant progress, because none of the problems from the earlier flights recurred, and SpaceX engineers now have data to tackle the new problems.

Michael Roston

On the social media site X, Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA, congratulated SpaceX on what he called a “successful test flight” of Starship. The agency is counting on Starship to land astronauts on the moon’s surface as part of the Artemis III mission. Another vehicle, the Orion capsule, is to be used to bring those astronauts back to Earth.

SpaceX says Starship did not survive re-entry, but it achieved several key milestones during the flight. That marks significant progress since the second test flight. Elon Musk has said he hopes there will be a half-dozen Starship flights this year.

SpaceX says a dual loss of communication, both through its own Starlink satellites and other forms spacecraft communications with Earth, suggest that Starship did not survive re-entry. They’re still listening to see if radio contact resumes.

Video is gone. Telemetry is also stuck at a speed 25,707 kilometers per hour and an altitude of 65 kilometers. The reason is not clear.

Starship already has private customers booked for deep space trips.

Starship has not yet done a full orbit of the Earth, but SpaceX already has three private astronaut missions on its manifest for the spacecraft.

The first flight with astronauts aboard will be led by Jared Isaacman who previously bought an orbital trip on a Falcon 9 rocket that was known as Inspiration4 .

Then two other Starship flights will travel around the moon and back, one led by Yusaku Maezawa , a Japanese entrepreneur, and the other by Dennis Tito, who was the first private individual to buy a trip to the International Space Station in 2001.

Back in 2018 when Mr. Maezawa signed up for the lunar flyby, Mr. Musk said Starship would be ready by 2023.

Mr. Maezawa later called the mission ‘dearMoon,’ inviting people to apply for a seat on the trip. Last week, he acknowledged it was not going to happen this year.

“We were planning for our lunar orbital mission ‘dearMoon’ to take place in 2023, but seems like it will take a little longer,” he wrote on the social network X. “We’re not sure when the flight will be, but we will give you all an update once we know more.”

SpaceX is apparently also planning uncrewed cargo flights to the surface of the moon with Starship.

In March last year, a small start-up company, Astrolab, announced that it was sending a Jeep Wrangler-size rover to surface in the south polar region of the moon , and the ride would be a cargo Starship flight that would take it there.

SpaceX did not confirm the news.

This appears to be part of the expanding potential market for Starship. SpaceX also plans to use the rocket for launching its second generation of Starlink internet communications satellites .

Starship is re-entering Earth's atmosphere. We’re seeing the heating on the flaps, with video being transmitted to the ground through SpaceX's Starlink satellites. The view is incredible. Usually the plasma disrupts radio transmissions.

SpaceX skipped the restart of one of the Raptor engines on the upper stage of Starship. It did conduct the propellant transfer test and the opening and closing of the payload door, which means the flight achieved some of its experimental objectives during its coast around the Earth, but not others. Next stop: Re-entry through the atmosphere and a hard bellyflop in the Indian Ocean.

The music on the livestream is more old-fashioned than the ambient beats we’re used to during SpaceX video feeds. But there’s nothing old-fashioned about the views in space from the rocket, which are unreal, but have not always been visible as its connection to the ground comes and goes.

During this period of the flight, Starship is scheduled to perform several tests. The first, opening the payload door, is complete. It will also move several tons of liquid oxygen between two tanks within Starship. That’s a preliminary test for future in-orbit refueling between two Starships, which is critical for sending the vehicle to the moon. Finally, Starship will try to restart one of its Raptor engines in the vacuum of space, something it has not done before.

The payload door of the upper Starship rocket stage is now open. That’s how a future Starship will deploy Starlink satellites, and demonstrating that it works was one of the objectives of today's flight.

The engines on the upper-stage of the rocket successfully completed their burn. Starship is now coasting in space, on a trajectory that will re-enter the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.

We were watching the booster attempting to land in the Gulf of Mexico. But the camera feed cut off, and we're not sure what actually happened. The upper stage Starship is still continuing on its trajectory toward the Indian Ocean.

The Super Heavy booster stage of the rocket appears to be headed back to Earth. During the last attempt, the booster exploded at this point, so it looks like SpaceX has fixed that issue.

The large Super Heavy booster stage has separated from the Starship upper stage, which is on its way to space. The flight is looking good.

All 33 Raptor engines in the booster are working fine. So far everything looks good.

Less than 2 minutes until liftoff. Propellant tanks are full, and wind will not prevent an on-time liftoff.

Starship is less than 10 minutes away from its third launch. The countdown is going smoothly.

What will happen during Starship’s third test flight.

For its third test flight, Starship aims to fly part of the way around the Earth, starting from SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica Village, Texas, and splashing down in the Indian Ocean.

The earlier test flights — both of which ended in explosions — aimed to come down in waters off Hawaii. SpaceX said it had set the new flight path to allow for safe testing of things it hadn’t done before with the Starship vehicle.

The journey will start at the site that SpaceX calls Starbase, which is a few miles north of where Texas and Mexico meet along the Gulf of Mexico. The rocket, nearly 400 feet tall, will be mounted next to a launch tower that is about 480 feet tall. It will be filled with methane and liquid oxygen propellants during the hours before liftoff.

Three seconds before launch, computers will begin to ignite the 33 engines in the Super Heavy rocket booster beneath Starship.

Starship and Super Heavy will begin their ascent over the Gulf. At 52 seconds into the flight, SpaceX says, the vehicle will experience the heaviest atmospheric stress of its trip, a moment flight engineers call max-q.

If the stainless steel spacecraft survives that stress, the next key moment will occur 2 minutes and 42 seconds into flight, when most of the Super Heavy booster’s engines power down. Seconds later, the upper Starship vehicle will begin “hot-staging,” or lighting up its engines before separating from Super Heavy.

Super Heavy’s journey will end about seven minutes after launch. SpaceX would typically aim to return the massive rocket booster to the launch site for a vertical landing. But for the test flight, the spent Super Heavy will perform a series of maneuvers before firing its engines one last time to slow its descent into the Gulf of Mexico.

As Super Heavy is descending, Starship will be gaining altitude. About eight and a half minutes into its flight, its engines will switch off. It will then begin coasting around the Earth.

While floating through space, Starship will attempt several things that the spacecraft has never done. Nearly 12 minutes into the flight, it will open a door that in the future could deploy satellites and other cargo into space. About 12 minutes later, it will transfer propellants from one tank to another while in space, a technique needed for future journeys to the moon and beyond. Then, 40 minutes into the flight, Starship will relight one if its engines while in space.

If the spacecraft makes it through those experiments, the conclusion of Starship’s journey will start at about the 49-minute mark. The spacecraft is set to pivot horizontally into a belly-flop to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. If it survives the extreme temperatures, Starship will splash down 64 minutes after it left Texas. The company has said in the past that it expects the belly-flop ocean landing to end in an explosion .

After SpaceX completes its testing campaign, future Starship flights will return to the Texas Starbase site after they complete their missions in orbit. SpaceX is also building a launch tower for Starship at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where flights could one day launch and land, including the Artemis III mission that NASA plans to use to return American astronauts to the moon’s surface.

SpaceX has started the company’s official live video stream from Texas, a sign that it is serious about igniting the rocket in about 20 minutes. You can watch it in the video player embedded above.

What went right and wrong during the 2nd Starship test flight.

The second test flight of Starship in November got a lot higher and faster than the first attempt seven months earlier.

During the first launch outside Brownsville, Texas, in April last year, things went wrong from the start — the exhaust of the engines of the Super Heavy booster excavated a hole beneath the launchpad, sending pieces of concrete flying up to three-quarters of a mile away and a plume of dust drifting 6.5 miles, blanketing the nearby town of Port Isabel. Several of the booster engines failed, and the upper stage never separated from the booster.

Instead, the rocket started making loop-de-loops before the flight termination system destroyed it.

During the second test flight , all 33 of the booster engines worked during ascent. A water deluge system protected the launchpad. The upper Starship stage separated from the booster and then made it most of the way to orbital velocity. However, the journeys of both the booster and the upper Starship stage still ended in explosions.

For the booster, as it dropped away from the upper stage, 13 of the 33 engines fired again to guide it toward the landing location. Although this particular booster was not going to be recovered, SpaceX wanted to test the re-entry techniques that are similar to what it currently uses for its smaller Falcon 9 rockets. However, something went wrong. Several engines shut down and then one blew up, causing the destruction of the booster.

In an update posted on the company’s website on Feb. 26 , SpaceX said the most likely cause of the booster failure was a blockage of a filter where liquid oxygen flowed to the engines. The company said it had made design changes to prevent that from happening again.

The upper stage continued upward for seven minutes after stage separation. This was itself an achievement because the company completed a step called hot-staging, during which the upper-stage engines ignite before the stage detaches from the Super Heavy booster.

Because the spacecraft was empty, extra liquid oxygen was loaded to simulate the weight of a future payload it could carry to orbit. But when the extra oxygen was dumped, a fire started, disrupting communication between the spacecraft’s flight computers. The computers shut down the engines and then set off the flight termination system, destroying the spacecraft.

The upper Starship stage reached an altitude of about 90 miles and a speed of about 15,000 miles per hour. For a spacecraft to reach orbit, it needs to accelerate to about 17,000 miles per hour.

Frost lines have appeared on Starship and the Super Heavy booster as methane and liquid oxygen flow into the rocket’s tanks.

It’s sunrise in Cameron County, Texas, but weather reports show cloudy conditions persist. We’ll see if weather is going to keep Starship on the beach, but SpaceX says it has started loading propellants into the rocket.

Launch time is now 9:25 a.m. Eastern. SpaceX says winds are still a concern that could cause a liftoff to be called off, but it will go ahead with loading of propellants in the rocket.

SpaceX pushed the launch time back a little more, to 9:10 a.m. Eastern. They have until 9:50 to try today.

SpaceX has just announced the new target launch time is 9:02 a.m. Eastern, and the company said on X that it is clearing some boats from a safety zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameras from a number of space enthusiast websites like NASASpaceflight that are pointing at the rocket show there is still no frost on its side, so the loading of ultracold methane and liquid oxygen propellants has not yet begun.

As SpaceX prepares for its third flight of Starship, other space efforts have experienced difficulties this week. On Wednesday, Kairos, a rocket from a Japanese startup called Space One, exploded moments into its first launch attempt. And Xinhua, a Chinese state news agency, said on Thursday that two Chinese satellites were lost after a rocket failed to reach the planned orbit.

In a posting on the social media site X, SpaceX says that it is aiming for launch at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, or 30 minutes into the 110-minute launch window. There is a 70 percent chance of favorable weather. There have been concerns of high winds, especially at higher altitudes.

What is Starship?

For Elon Musk, Starship is really a Mars ship. He envisions a fleet of Starships carrying settlers to the red planet in the coming years.

And for that eventual purpose, Starship, under development by Mr. Musk’s SpaceX rocket company , has to be big. Stacked on top of what SpaceX calls a Super Heavy booster, the Starship rocket system will be, by pretty much every measure, the biggest and most powerful ever.

It is the tallest rocket ever built — 397 feet tall, or about 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty including the pedestal.

And it has the most engines ever in a rocket booster: The Super Heavy has 33 of SpaceX’s powerful Raptor engines sticking out of its bottom. As those engines lift Starship off the launchpad in South Texas, they will generate 16 million pounds of thrust at full throttle.

NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket , which made its first flight in November 2022, holds the current record for the maximum thrust of a rocket: 8.8 million pounds. The maximum thrust of the Saturn V rocket that took NASA astronauts to the moon during the Apollo program was relatively paltry: 7.6 million pounds.

An even more transformative feature of Starship is that it is designed to be entirely reusable. The Super Heavy booster is to land much like those for SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets, and Starship will be able to return from space belly-flopping through the atmosphere like a sky diver before pivoting to a vertical position for landing.

That means all of the really expensive pieces — like the 33 Raptor engines in the Super Heavy booster and six additional Raptors in Starship itself — will be used over and over instead of thrown away into the ocean after one flight.

That has the potential to cut the cost of sending payloads into orbit — to less than $10 million to take 100 tons to space, Mr. Musk has predicted.

Starship and Super Heavy are shiny because SpaceX made them out of stainless steel, which is cheaper than using other materials like carbon composites. But one side of Starship is coated in black tiles to protect the spacecraft from the extreme heat that it will encounter if it gets far enough in its flight to re-enter the atmosphere.

Here is what to know about Thursday’s SpaceX test flight.

The third try was closer to the charm for Elon Musk and SpaceX, as the company’s flight test of the mammoth Starship rocket launched on Thursday and traveled almost halfway around the Earth before it was lost as it re-entered the atmosphere.

The flight achieved some key milestones in the development of the vehicle, which could alter the future of space transportation and help NASA return astronauts to the moon.

This particular flight did not, by design, make it all the way around the Earth. At 9:25 a.m. Eastern time, Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever to fly, lifted off from the coast of South Texas. About 45 minutes later it started its re-entry, but communications were lost a few minutes after that. The company said the rocket was lost before attempting to splash down in the Indian Ocean, a sign that more work needs to be completed on the vehicle.

That reusability gives SpaceX the potential to drive down the cost of lofting satellites and space telescopes, as well as people and the things they need to live in space.

Here’s what else to know:

Thursday’s flight demonstrated new capabilities for Starship. In addition to reaching orbital speeds, the Starship vehicle opened and closed its payload door and managed to move several tons of liquid oxygen between two tanks within the rocket, a key test needed for future missions.

The Starship system consists of two stages — the Super Heavy rocket booster and the upper-stage spacecraft, which is also called Starship. The company intends both to be fully reusable in the future. Read more about Starship .

Thursday’s launch was the third of Starship. Here’s a recap of what happened last time .

Every 2.4 million years, Mars tugs on Earth so hard it changes the ocean floor

A new geological study suggests that Mars' gravitational field pulls the Earth closer to the sun over cycles lasting millions of years, warming our climate.

Illustration of the Red Planet aka Mars against a black background.

Mars' gravitational pull on Earth may be influencing the climate on our planet, new research hints.

Geological evidence tracing back more than 65 million years and taken from hundreds of sites across the world suggests that deep-sea currents have repeatedly gone through periods of being either stronger or weaker. This happens every 2.4 million years and is known as an " astronomical grand cycle ." 

The stronger currents, known as "giant whirlpools" or eddies, may reach the seafloor at the deepest parts of the ocean, known as the abyss . These powerful currents then erode away at the large pieces of sediment that accumulate during calmer periods in the cycle, according to research published Tuesday (March 12) in the journal Nature Communications . 

These cycles happen to coincide with the timing of known gravitational interactions between Earth and Mars as the two planets orbit the sun, the study found.

"The gravity fields of the planets in the solar system interfere with each other and this interaction, called a resonance, changes planetary eccentricity, a measure of how close to circular their orbits are," study co-author Dietmar Müller , a professor of geophysics at the University of Sydney, said in a statement .

Related: 'We are approaching the tipping point': Marker for the collapse of key Atlantic current discovered

Due to this resonance, the Earth is pulled slightly closer to the sun by Mars' gravitational pull, meaning our planet is exposed to more solar radiation and hence has a warmer climate, before drifting backward again — all over a period of 2.4 million years. 

The authors of the new study used satellite data to map the accumulation of sediment on the ocean floor over tens of millions of years. They found that there were gaps in the geological records where sediment stopped building up within these astronomical cycles. They believe that this could be linked to stronger ocean currents as a result of warmer weather caused by Mars' gravitational influence on Earth. 

These findings support the idea that the Red Planet influences the climate on Earth, just as passing stars and other astronomical objects have been theorized to. However, the observed warming effect is not linked to global warming that is being driven by human greenhouse gas emissions , the authors emphasized in the statement. 

Nevertheless, although speculative at this stage, the findings suggest that this cycle may help periodically maintain some of the ocean's deep currents in the event that global warming decreases them, the authors say. 

"We know there are at least two separate mechanisms that contribute to the vigor of deep-water mixing in the oceans," Müller said. One of these mechanisms is known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), Müller said. This acts as an ocean "conveyor belt," bringing warm water from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere, pulling heat deep into the ocean in the process. 

— What if the ocean's climate-controlling 'conveyor belt' came to a halt?

— Here's a disturbing theory about why climate change seemed to 'pause' for 15 years

— Antarctic currents supplying 40% of world's deep ocean with nutrients and oxygen slowing dramatically

Some scientists predict that the AMOC may collapse over the next few decades so it's possible that the ventilation induced by deep ocean eddies could be beneficial. 

"Our deep-sea data spanning 65 million years suggests that warmer oceans have more vigorous deep circulation," Adriana Dutkiewicz , lead study author and sedimentologist at the University of Sydney, said in the statement. "This will potentially keep the ocean from becoming stagnant even if Atlantic meridional overturning circulation slows or stops altogether." 

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Emily Cooke

Emily is a health news writer based in London, United Kingdom. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Durham University and a master's degree in clinical and therapeutic neuroscience from Oxford University. She has worked in science communication, medical writing and as a local news reporter while undertaking journalism training. In 2018, she was named one of MHP Communications' 30 journalists to watch under 30. ( [email protected]

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  • OldNDumb So, when is this going to happen? Exactly where are we in this cycle? Reply
admin said: A new geological study suggests that Mars' gravitational field pulls the Earth closer to the sun over cycles lasting millions of years, warming our climate. Every 2.4 million years, Mars tugs on Earth so hard it changes the ocean floor : Read more
  • The Old Ranger Every time I read "millions of years" on these posts, I just laugh because if they base their dating on Darwin, they are totally off base. According to the Bible, the universe was created a little over 6 thousand years ago, around 4004 BC... chronologies based on research by PhDs in math, science, geology, chemistry, geophysics, et al have a provable time table, and certainly not based on man coming from slime or apes. Man likes to think he has all the answers, but look at the mess the world is in... where is all their knowledge to make things better... what they believe in is unprovable theories and hypotheses .... even today, the call is out to get rid of combustible engines burning oil to go to electric cars, and then our utility companies ask us to cut back on usage of electricity during the summer because they don't have enough sources to supply what we need.... where are we going to get all this electricity to keep up with charging stations for millions of cars?? Man can only suggest, but God knows and He has a time table not known to our best scientists who only suppose to know. As we say in Texas, bless your little pea-picking heart. Just in case, I have advanced degrees in math and physics, so I'm in a position to know the weaknesses of the "theories" posted. We can't even cure illnesses on this planet. Reply
The Old Ranger said: Every time I read "millions of years" on these posts, I just laugh because if they base their dating on Darwin, they are totally off base. According to the Bible, the universe was created a little over 6 thousand years ago, around 4004 BC... chronologies based on research by PhDs in math, science, geology, chemistry, geophysics, et al have a provable time table, and certainly not based on man coming from slime or apes. Man likes to think he has all the answers, but look at the mess the world is in... where is all their knowledge to make things better... what they believe in is unprovable theories and hypotheses .... even today, the call is out to get rid of combustible engines burning oil to go to electric cars, and then our utility companies ask us to cut back on usage of electricity during the summer because they don't have enoug The Old Ranger said: Every time I read "millions of years" on these posts, I just laugh because if they base their dating on Darwin, they are totally off base. According to the Bible, the universe was created a little over 6 thousand years ago, around 4004 BC... chronologies based on research by PhDs in math, science, geology, chemistry, geophysics, et al have a provable time table, and certainly not based on man coming from slime or apes. Man likes to think he has all the answers, but look at the mess the world is in... where is all their knowledge to make things better... what they believe in is unprovable theories and hypotheses .... even today, the call is out to get rid of combustible engines burning oil to go to electric cars, and then our utility companies ask us to cut back on usage of electricity during the summer because they don't have enough sources to supply what we need.... where are we going to get all this electricity to keep up with charging stations for millions of cars?? Man can only suggest, but God knows and He has a time table not known to our best scientists who only suppose to know. As we say in Texas, bless your little pea-picking heart. Just in case, I have advanced degrees in math and physics, so I'm in a position to know the weaknesses of the "theories" posted. We can't even cure illnesses on this planet.
  • Amphoteric_ Rhetoric Put "this has no relationship with global warming" on the top somewhere, before someone decides to cite this paper "proving" that global warming isn't real. Reply
Giovani said: Mars asserts its influence measured in millions of years; what other strange things occur from this sort of situation? It could be that in the span of millions of years, every so often, something not even imagined takes place in the neighboring cosmos. My imagination sees Mars "waking up" in such an event. Transforming quickly into an active planet, including volcanic awakening. Meanwhile the entire solar system appears to be affected by these phenomena. I think it's happened before many times and we may be just right in circumstance, to witness an upheaval appearing in the time slot discussed. Wouldn't that be just our luck, what an ego crusher. We are not only not all that, but the built-in arrogance of the human frame would also evaporate spontaneously.
  • gonzo I could do a study and suggest that drinking motor oil is good for you. Does that mean it's true? Probably not. Do I suggest you to start drinking motor oil? Don't think so. Does their study mean anything? No. Shut up until you have proof and quit wasting everybody's time and lying to people and misleading. You see it all the time this such and such study suggests, I don't remember asking what they suggested and I imagine nobody else did either. Just anonymous people doing some stupid study that nobody knows anything about and couldn't prove if they wanted to but we're supposed to believe it. Nope those days are over Reply
OldNDumb said: So, when is this going to happen? Exactly where are we in this cycle?
  • View All 17 Comments

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How long would it take to walk around Mars?

The answer depends on many factors, including velocity, rest breaks and terrain.

a person in a brown spacesuit walking on a reddish-orange desert

Humans have long had a fascination with Mars, and NASA has ambitious plans to send astronauts there within the next few decades. Anyone walking on Mars would likely explore only a small fraction of the planet's surface. 

But without oceans or other bodies of water, could an astronaut walk all the way around the Red Planet? How long would it take to walk around Mars?

Unsurprisingly, a long time — though exactly how long might be hard to say. If the astronaut could travel continuously at a walking speed, it would be a simple calculation.

Related: Boiling blood and radiation: 5 ways Mars can kill

"We would need essentially two parameters," said Erdal Yigit , an associate professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University who studies the atmospheres of planets. Those parameters are the astronaut's velocity (speed and direction) and the distance they would travel.

If the person traveled along Mars' equator , they would walk about 13,300 miles (21,400 kilometers) to get all the way around the planet. Walking around Mars through its poles would shave off about 100 miles (160 km), but the extreme cold would pose an even greater challenge than the harsh conditions on the rest of the planet, Yigit said.

The person's velocity would be about 3.1 mph (5 km/h), which is also an average walking speed on Earth, straight along the equator, Yigit said. Despite Mars' reduced gravity (about 40% of Earth's), Yigit doubts a person's walking speed would be much different on Mars. Like any back-country hiker on Earth, this person would likely be carrying a heavy load of supplies — such as oxygen, water and food — and would be wearing a heavy spacesuit.

If someone were to walk continuously around Mars at that speed, the calculation would be simple: Just divide the distance by the velocity. That would mean it would take about 4,290 hours. There are about 24.7 hours in a Martian day (called a sol), so it would take roughly 174 sols to walk around Mars continuously. That's a little over a quarter of a Martian year, which is 668.6 sols.

Of course, no one would be able to complete that walk continuously — on Mars, Earth or anywhere. Even if the person were able to bring enough oxygen, water and food with them, and could eat and drink while walking, they would still need to stop to sleep. Assuming the astronaut slept about eight hours each night, it would add about 56 sols. If the person stopped for four or five more hours each sol to eat, rest, change clothes, clean themselves, and set up and deconstruct some type of campsite, it would take another 30 or 35 sols, depending on how long they were stopped.

All in all, a more realistic estimate might be at least 265 sols, about 40% of the Martian year. But that calculation does not account for potential obstacles, such as rough terrain. Mars has many mountains, including some that are taller than any on Earth, as well as valleys, craters and many other geological features that would be tough to navigate.

 —  Does the sun move in the solar system?

—  What is the biggest planet ever found?

— Why are there no gas moons?

Of course, it is very unlikely that anyone will be walking all the way around Mars anytime soon. People have circumnavigated Earth on foot, though it is, of course, impossible to truly walk or run all the way around, due to the oceans. But humans have walked on only a small portion of the moon , despite traveling there multiple times. And walking so far and for so long on Mars would pose many logistical problems, like bringing enough food, water and oxygen and protecting the person from the dangerous impacts of radiation.

Although it's highly unlikely that humans will walk around the entire Red Planet, sending astronauts to the surface still has many advantages over rovers, Yigit said.

Rovers "are susceptible to dust and other kinds of electrical problems; something may happen," he said. With humans "even if there are problems, we can find solutions around them." 

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Rebecca Sohn

Rebecca Sohn is a freelance science writer. She writes about a variety of science, health and environmental topics, and is particularly interested in how science impacts people's lives. She has been an intern at CalMatters and STAT, as well as a science fellow at Mashable. Rebecca, a native of the Boston area, studied English literature and minored in music at Skidmore College in Upstate New York and later studied science journalism at New York University. 

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COMMENTS

  1. How long does it take to get to Mars?

    Therefore, a light shining from the surface of Mars would take the following amount of time to reach Earth (or vice versa): Closest possible approach: 182 seconds, or 3.03 minutes. Closest ...

  2. How Long Does It Take to Get to Mars?

    Most estimates put the travel time in the range of 150-300 days - that's five to 10 months - and the average is usually around seven months, just like the Perseverance rover. Now That's Interesting. The two fastest travel times from Earth to Mars are for the Viking 6 and Viking 7 spacecraft, which took 155 and 128 days respectively. Both of ...

  3. Trip to Mars

    The mission is timed for launch when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars. That is, it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. As Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different speeds and distances, once about ...

  4. How long does it take to get to Mars?

    In 2018, the space agency requested proposals for technological systems that could enable small, uncrewed missions to fly from Earth to Mars in 45 days or less. At the time, the proposals didn't ...

  5. How long does it take to get to Mars?

    The best time to do it is when Earth and Mars are correctly lined up, and this happens once every 26 months. This is the open window astronomers target regularly. Traveling At the Speed of Light Towards Mars. In 2003, Mars reached its closest point to Earth, being located at only 54.6 million km / 33.9 million miles away.

  6. Human mission to Mars

    The lowest energy transfer to Mars is a Hohmann transfer orbit, which would involve a roughly 9-month travel time from Earth to Mars, about 500 days (16 mo) [citation needed] at Mars to wait for the transfer window to Earth, and a travel time of about 9 months to return to Earth. This would be a 34-month trip.

  7. How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?

    The total journey time from Earth to Mars takes between 150-300 days depending on the speed of the launch, the alignment of Earth and Mars, and the length of the journey the spacecraft takes to ...

  8. Humans to Mars

    One day on Mars lasts about 37 minutes longer than an Earth day. A year on Mars is almost twice as long as a year on Earth. Gravity on Mars is about one-third of the gravity on Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh 38 pounds on Mars. Mars has two moons: Phobos and Deimos.

  9. How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005) took 210 days to reach its destination. Phoenix (2007) completed its travel to Mars in 295 days. Curiosity (2011) touched down on the martian surface after a trip lasting 253 days. MAVEN (2013) entered the martian orbit after a 10-month trip. Insight (2018) reached Mars in 206 days.

  10. How Long Does It Take to Get to Mars from Earth?

    As a result of its orbit, Mars comes closer to the Sun and other planets at certain moments. Mars is closest to Earth approximately every 26 months. Despite advances in space travel, it would take anywhere from nine months to a few years to reach Mars. Scientists estimate it would take longer for astronauts to reach Mars because oxygen, food ...

  11. How long does it take to get to Mars, and how far is it? Nasa

    The closest recorded distance to Mars was in 2003 when Mars was recorded as 34.8 million miles (56 million km) - but the next time they are expected to come this close is the year 2287.

  12. Flight to Mars: How Long? And along what path?

    Location of Mars Where should Mars be at the time of launch? From numbers cited at the beginning of this section, it takes Mars 1.8822 years for a full orbit of 360 0. Therefore, assuming a circular orbit and uniform motion (a less accurate approximation for Mars than for Earth), in 0.70873 years it should cover 360 0 * (0.70886 / 1.88) = 135.555 0

  13. Earth to Mars Distance: How Long Does It Take To Get to Mars

    For example, the Perseverance rover, traveling at around 24,600 mph (39,600 kph), took seven months to reach Mars. However, this travel time was influenced by the positions of Earth and Mars at ...

  14. How Long Would It Take To Travel To Mars?

    On average, the distance between Mars and Earth is about 140 million miles (225 million kilometres). To traverse that distance would likely take several months to years depending on how fast of a rocket you have. However, the distance between Mars and Earth actually changes. Both Mars and Earth orbit the sun in ellipses, meaning the distance ...

  15. Let's Go to Mars! Calculating Launch Windows

    To calculate the position of Mars at the time of launch, subtract the amount of its motion during the spacecraft's travel time (136 degrees) from its point of arrival (180 degrees). 180 degrees - 136 degrees = 44 degrees. Considering that launch from Earth was at the Hohmann orbit perihelion (point closest to the sun) and arrival is at the ...

  16. How NASA and SpaceX Will Get People From Earth to Mars ...

    The final challenge is the return journey and getting people safely back to Earth. Apollo 11 entered Earth's atmosphere at about 40,000km/h (25,000 mph), which is just below the velocity required to escape Earth's orbit. Spacecraft returning from Mars will have re-entry velocities from 47,000km/h to 54,000km/h (29,000 mph to 34,000 mph ...

  17. NASA's Perseverance Rover Is Midway to Mars

    "In straight-line distance, Earth is 26.6 million miles [42.7 million kilometers] behind Perseverance and Mars is 17.9 million miles [28.8 million kilometers] in front." At the current distance, it takes 2 minutes, 22 seconds for a transmission to travel from mission controllers at JPL via the Deep Space Network to the spacecraft. By time ...

  18. How Far Is Mars From Earth? Breaking Down How Long it Takes ...

    It took the rover about seven months to get from Earth to Mars. Perseverance launched on July 30, 2020, and is slated to arrive at the red planet on February 18, 2021. That's 204 days, which is ...

  19. How Far Away is Mars? And How Long to Travel There?

    It takes anywhere between 39 days to 333 days for a spaceship to get to Mars. Light, on the other hand, travels to Mars in 12 minutes and 42 seconds at its average distance of 142 million miles. So far, in this article, we have learned the distance from Earth to Mars at two important points in its orbit.

  20. ESA

    The path that ExoMars 2022 will follow to reach the Red Planet is set. The trajectory that will take the spacecraft from Earth to Mars in 264 days foresees a touchdown on the martian surface on 10 June 2023, at around 17:30 CEST (15:30 UTC). The weather at Mars, the type of launcher and the laws of physics governing the planets determined a 12 ...

  21. How Long Would it Take to Travel to Every Planet?

    1. Mercury, 6.5 Years (Messenger) We did our first flyby of Mercury in the 1970s, and it took something like 147 days to get there. But if you want to actually travel there, you need to slow down ...

  22. Mars attracts: How Earth's interactions with the red planet drive deep

    Scientists from the Universities of Sydney and Sorbonne University have used the geological record of the deep sea to discover a connection between the orbits of Earth and Mars, past global ...

  23. Mars Has an Unexpected Influence on Earth's Oceans and Climate

    In an astonishing cosmic cycle that occurs every 2.4 million years, Mars' gravitational pull is shifting Earth's path around the sun, warming its climate and increasing vigorous deep ocean ...

  24. Highlights From SpaceX's Starship Test Flight

    This particular flight was not, by design, intended to make it all the way around the Earth. At 8:25 a.m. Central time, Starship — the biggest and most powerful rocket ever to fly — lifted off ...

  25. Every 2.4 million years, Mars tugs on Earth so hard it changes the

    A new geological study suggests that Mars' gravitational field pulls the Earth closer to the sun over cycles lasting millions of years, warming our climate.

  26. How long would it take to walk around Mars?

    If the person traveled along Mars' equator, they would walk about 13,300 miles (21,400 kilometers) to get all the way around the planet.Walking around Mars through its poles would shave off about ...

  27. Mars may be having a profound impact on Earth's deep-ocean ...

    The Moon causes both high and low tides, but it's not the only celestial body that impacts Earth's waters. Mars's gravity influences our planet's deep-ocean currents, according to a study reported in Nature Communications this week. By comparing more than 50 years of deep-sea drilling records with shifts in Earth's orbit, researchers found that the gravitational tug of Mars on Earth ...