How Long Does It Take to Get to Mars?

Have you ever wondered how long it would take to reach Mars? The answer depends on various factors, including the positions of Earth and Mars and the technology used for propulsion. According to NASA, a one-way trip to the Red Planet would take approximately nine months. For a round-trip journey, it would take about 21 months, including a three-month wait on Mars to ensure a suitable alignment for the return trip.

How Far Away is Mars?

To determine the duration of a trip to Mars, we must first understand the distance between the two planets. Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and the second closest to Earth (with Venus being the closest). However, the distance between Earth and Mars is constantly changing as they orbit the sun.

The closest recorded approach of the two planets occurred in 2003 when they were only 34.8 million miles apart. On average, the distance between Earth and Mars is approximately 140 million miles.

How Long Would It Take to Travel to Mars at the Speed of Light?

The speed of light is approximately 186,282 miles per second. If we consider the time it would take for light to travel between Earth and Mars, we get the following estimates:

  • Closest possible approach: 182 seconds, or 3.03 minutes
  • Closest recorded approach: 187 seconds, or 3.11 minutes
  • Farthest approach: 1,342 seconds, or 22.4 minutes
  • On average: 751 seconds, or just over 12.5 minutes
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Fastest Spacecraft So Far

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe currently holds the record for being the fastest spacecraft. During its 10th close flyby of the sun, it reached a top speed of 101 miles per second (or 364,621 mph). If one were to hitch a ride on the Parker Solar Probe and travel in a straight line from Earth to Mars at this speed, the estimated travel time would be:

  • Closest possible approach: 93 hours
  • Closest recorded approach: 95 hours
  • Farthest approach: 686 hours (28.5 days)
  • On average: 384 hours (16 days)


Q: How is the travel time to Mars calculated?
The duration of a trip to Mars depends on various factors, including the alignment of Earth and Mars, the distance between the two planets, and the propulsion technology used. Engineers must calculate the ideal orbits for spacecraft to ensure they arrive at Mars when it’s in the right position.

Q: Can travel time to Mars be shortened?
Advancements in technology can potentially shorten travel time to Mars. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is being developed to carry future missions, and photon propulsion could propel robotic spacecraft to Mars in only three days. These advancements are still in progress and require further development.


Traveling to Mars is a complex endeavor, with the duration of the journey depending on several factors. While a one-way trip would take around nine months using existing technology, advancements in propulsion systems could potentially shorten the travel time in the future. As we continue to explore space, our understanding of Mars and our ability to reach it will undoubtedly improve.

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