Flights to Mars are not only a childhood dream of many of us, but also the goal of many entrepreneurs and companies. How long does a flight to Mars take? What is the latest information from the plans for the conquest of the Red Planet?
Flight to Mars – how long does it take? Journey to Mars in a nutshell
Mars is the fourth planet in the solar system and the second planet closest to Earth. The planet closest to Earth is Venus, but due to unfavorable conditions (very dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide and nitrogen), colonization of its surface is currently impossible. The red planet – as Mars is commonly called – is a different story.
Its name comes from the rusty color that arises from iron oxides (hematite) depositing on its surface. Mars has an Earth-like rotation period around its axis (just over 24 hours). Its radius is half that of the Earth’s, and its volume is only 15% of the Earth’s.
The surface of the planet is diverse, just like on Earth – there are mountains (also volcanic, including the highest volcano in the Solar System – Olympus Mons). Mars has a fairly thin layer of atmosphere – the Earth’s surface has an atmospheric pressure of 35 km.
The surface of Mars is dotted with craters. Unlike Earth, Mars has almost no major tectonic movements. Starting 1965, there was speculation about the presence of water on Mars, and current research seems to support this thesis. So there is also a hypothetical chance for life to exist.
So it is no surprise that a trip to Mars has been planned for a long time. As early as 1965, the unmanned Mariner 4 spacecraft found its way near Mars. The Mariner’s data (mainly those confirming the presence of liquid water) ignited the imagination of scientists even more. To date, many unmanned missions to Mars have been completed. Unfortunately, half of them ended in failure. However, this does not deter enthusiasts of human colonization of Mars, and advanced work is currently underway on the first manned flight to Mars. How long does the flight to Mars take and why are we so electrified by the vision of colonizing this planet?
A flight to Mars is incomparably more demanding than a flight to the Moon, also in terms of the time spent in space. It is estimated that the flight from Earth to Mars may take about 9 months, or nearly 270 days. This time can be shortened using the so-called Hohmann transfer maneuver, assuming changes in the circular orbit of spacecraft flight.
How long does it take to fly to the moon? The Apollo 11 mission to the moon arrived in just 4 days. The moon is a satellite of the Earth moving in its orbit. Mars is a distant planet. Even a comparison of the distance from the Moon to Earth (over 384,000 km) and from Mars to Earth (54.6 million km) clearly shows a different order of magnitude.
Journey to Mars, or all the details about the flight to Red Planet
We heard the first official announcements of a manned expedition to Mars from George W. Bush, President of the United States in 2004, confirmed in 2010 by Barack Obama. Donald Trump also spoke more and more boldly about a manned flight to the orbit of Mars.
The Americans are going for it – we have recently witnessed the first atmospheric flight on Mars by an Ingenuity drone. So NASA has clearly defined plans for a flight with a crew to the red planet.
Parallel to NASA, SpaceX – a space industry company founded by the visionary Elon Musk, carries out its commercial work.
Musk announced two unmanned missions to Mars in 2022 and at least one manned by 2024 as part of SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System. It is not yet known whether the Falcon Heavy carrier rocket will be used in the organization of flights, the long range of which has increased the exploration possibilities of space.
Perhaps the modern Starship carrier rocket will be used in the first manned flights to Mars to Mars organized by SpaceX. The announcements and the first technological concepts are over for now – although in the near future we can expect that Elon Musk will surprise us more than once.
The American arms concern Lockheed Martin Corporation also announces the organization of a flight to the orbit of Mars. The planned launch is said to be the year 2028, but the details of the mission have not been disclosed so far, and we believe that NASA’s plans in this regard will be prioritized in the United States. Perhaps NASA will cooperate with SpaceX.
Russia and China are also planning their trips to Mars. We do not know the details of the plans yet, but it does not seem that work on a manned mission to Mars is as advanced as in the case of the USA. It is worth asking yourself how long it takes to fly from Earth to Mars now, and how long it may take in just one or two years. Technology is developing surprisingly fast.
Man on Mars – what are the conditions there?
A manned mission to Mars must be preceded by a detailed analysis of the conditions in which a person will have to stay. Mars is apparently close to Earth. A day here is also 24 hours, and a Martian year is 687 Earth days.
We have already mentioned the thin atmosphere and the much lower gravitational pull (about 30% of Earth’s pull). The surface temperature of Mars varies between -130 and + 27 ° C, which is obviously related to the greater distance of the planet from the Sun (Mars is about 230 million kilometers from the star), as well as the thin atmosphere.
The atmosphere of the Red Planet is mainly carbon dioxide – which, in connection with the ice layers, gives a hypothetical perspective of the development of vegetation, of course with human intervention. Characteristic of Mars are the enormous dust storms that can cover even the entire planet.
They can be particularly dangerous for people and possible Martian infrastructure – the speed of wind and everything carried by it can reach up to 300 km / h.
Liquid water is practically non-existent. However, very large amounts of ice have been observed not only at the poles of Mars (the planet has Earth-like ice caps at both poles), but also below its surface in other locations.
This opens up further opportunities for colonization, including the production of food and fuel, although in the case of electricity – solar energy stored in huge batteries will probably be the main source of electricity on Mars.
Problems with manned flights to Mars
The main problem is the distance between Mars and Earth. This directly affects the enormous cost of transporting cargo and inventory over such a long distance. According to many scientists, there is only one answer to the question of how long it takes to reach Mars : too long.
It is therefore planned that the first manned flight to Mars will take place in the so-called startup window that appears every two years – more or less. The impact of many months of isolation on the crew of the spacecraft on a mission to Mars cannot be underestimated either.
Landing on Mars will also be a challenge. Low gravity and a thin atmosphere require careful planning. Unmanned flights to Mars are also aimed at assessing the feasibility of a safe landing on the red planet.
After landing, the members of the expedition will not come out of their suits – not only is the temperature a problem, but also the high carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. The influence of low gravity on the human body is also unfavorable.
Mars’ first crew members would not live long without food. While theoretically ice water will be available to the crew, food (after the supplies brought from Earth run out) will not. The real challenge will therefore be to create an infrastructure for growing crops to produce food. The fiction of the 2015 cinematic movie “The Martian” is closer to reality than it might seem at first glance.
Flights to Mars in 2021 – everything we know about them. The latest discoveries and information
Preparing for a flight to Mars is a long, costly and multi-stage process. The most difficult factor to deal with is the distance between Earth and Mars. How long does it take to fly to Mars? A manned journey is already theoretically possible, but the risk of an operation failure is so great that detailed planning of operations is necessary, which can take even decades.
SpaceX in its unmanned mission plans to send several spacecraft with supplies in parallel, which would make it much easier to continue the mission even in the face of unexpected unfavorable circumstances.
Another assumption is the creation of interim supply bases in space – for example, a fuel base on the moon. Certainly, the existence of such stopping points on the long journey to Mars will facilitate the course of the mission.
A manned flight to Mars will need many technological breakthroughs that will solve the problem of huge distances between planets and travel time. Such a step may be the use of a photon drive in spacecraft, which theoretically can accelerate the propelled object to the speed close to the speed of light. Such a 100 kg object would fly to Mars in only about 3 minutes. Who knows, maybe we will see it again?