How long does it take to get to Mars?

Do you ever lie on your bed at night, staring out of the window at the stars twinkling in the sky and wonder how long does it take to get to Mars? Space travel is a dream straight out of a science fiction film, but many believe that one day it might become a regular occurrence, although perhaps not for this generation, but certainly potentially for the next.

Already men have walked on the moon and space ships have traveled into space far beyond what our ancestors could have imagined. Authors like HG Wells might once have envisaged a world full of amazing and complex time machines, but as technology progresses at an ever-increasing rate of advancement, the ability to travel to the outer reaches of our solar system might soon be a reality.

Mars the Mysterious (NASA, 1997)The problem with working out how long does it take to travel to Mars from Earth in a spaceship is that both planets are orbiting the sun at different rates. Scientists have calculated that due to the different orbital rates, it would take a space ship approximately nine months to travel from Earth to Mars. It might be possible to make the trip in less time, but it would require more fuel and current technology does not support this.

If you manage to reach Mars in one piece without being intercepted by hostile aliens, you will be hit by a whole new set of problems. Due to the issue of different orbits, by the time you are ready to head back home again, Earth will no longer be where you left it, and this is not so good if you only have limited fuel supplies. Even landing on the surface of the planet will use up enormous supplies of fuel, so although it would be tempting to explore Mars after spending nine months of your life stuck on a spaceship, doing so could be disastrous.

As things currently stand, a trip to Mars can only be one-way, which is not great if you have plans to see your family and friends again. So until technological advancements catch up with the grand ideas in movies and fiction, the only spaceships heading to Mars are likely to be un-manned exploration craft designed for taking pictures to send back to the scientists back on Earth.

How long does it take to get to Mars at the speed of light?

This is an entirely different proposition. Instead of spending nine months cocooned in a spaceship, traveling at the speed of light you can travel from Earth to Mars in 3 minutes and 13.25 seconds. At that speed, it would be like stepping inside Doctor Who’s Tardis, closing the door, and before you can say ‘are we there yet?’ you will have arrived on the red planet.

Unfortunately, this amazing scenario only ever happens in movies, so unless you have a close personal relationship with Doctor Who, you will just have to use your imagination the next time you are lying back gazing up at the night sky and tracing the star constellations.

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