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Journey to Mars: How Long Would It Take?

Are we there yet? That is the question that makes parents cringe during a trip. If you’ve ever driven to another state for a vacation, you know that long journeys in the car can get a bit boring. After a few hours, you just want to be there already!

But if you’re bored by long trips, you might not want to be an astronaut. Traveling to outer space requires much more patience than your average trip to the beach.

The Distance to Mars

Earth is sometimes called the “third rock from the Sun,” which would make Mars the fourth rock from the Sun. Even though it is the next planet over, it is still a long way away.

Like Earth, Mars revolves around the Sun, although on a different path. Every 26 months, Mars reaches a point where it is as close as it ever gets to Earth. This point is called opposition, and at opposition, Mars is between 34.6 and 63 million miles away, depending on the year.

Thirteen months after opposition, Mars reaches conjunction, which means Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun and as far away from each other as they can get. At conjunction, Mars is almost 250 million miles from Earth.

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Timing the Mission

If you want to travel to Mars, it would be best to do so at the point of opposition when Mars is “only” 35-63 million miles away. That’s why rocket scientists time their unmanned missions to Mars to coincide with opposition windows every 26 months. The recent opposition window was in May 2016, and the next one will be in 2018.

The Lengthy Journey

Dreaming of being an astronaut on the first manned flight to Mars? Be prepared for a long journey. Scientists estimate that a trip to Mars and back would take 400-450 days. Would you be willing to spend over a year in a spacecraft just to get to Mars and back? You’d be saying “Are we there yet?” for months on end! Plus, what would you pack?

In addition to the long journey, a manned mission to Mars presents many other difficulties. Scientists worry about astronauts being exposed to cosmic rays and radiation during the trip. They are also concerned about the physical effects of extended exposure to a low-gravity, low-light environment.

Perhaps the hardest problem to predict is the psychological effect of isolation from Earth. Nobody knows for sure what mental stress astronauts would experience due to the lack of contact with their family and friends back home.

Other obstacles to a manned mission to Mars include the need for fuel, oxygen, water, and food for such an extended mission. Unfortunately, Mars has a very thin atmosphere that would not normally support human life.

Despite these challenges, countries around the world are planning for future manned missions to Mars. In 2004, the U.S. identified a manned Mars mission as a long-term goal. In 2007, NASA stated that it hopes to put a person on Mars by 2037.

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Are you up for a future mission to Mars? You never know what technology will be developed between now and then. Some scientists believe that advanced engines powered by nuclear energy could shorten the journey to Mars to only 39 days. Can you imagine how fast that spaceship would be traveling?

FAQs

Q: How long does it take to fly to Mars?
A: The estimated time for a round trip to Mars is around 400-450 days.

Q: When is the best time to travel to Mars?
A: The best time to travel to Mars is during opposition when it is “only” 35-63 million miles away from Earth.

Q: What are the challenges of a manned mission to Mars?
A: Challenges include exposure to cosmic rays and radiation, physical effects of low gravity and low light, psychological stress due to isolation, and the need for fuel, oxygen, water, and food for the journey.

Conclusion

Traveling to Mars is not a simple vacation. It requires patience, courage, and careful planning. While the journey may be long and challenging, the dream of exploring the “Red Planet” continues to captivate the minds of scientists and space enthusiasts alike. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe one day, we will witness the first humans setting foot on the surface of Mars, expanding our horizons and pushing the boundaries of human exploration. Until then, we can only imagine the incredible adventures that lie ahead.

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