In 2003, Mars make its closest method to earth in almost 60,000 years. The Hubble Telescope take it the opportunity to observe the red world while it was just 34,647,420 mile (55,757,930 km) indigenous Earth.(Image credit: NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI).)
If you want to pay a visit to the Red Planet, how long would it take? The answer counts on a variety of things, varying from the position of the planets to the technology that would propel you there. Let"s examine a few of the most necessary points.

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How much away is Mars?

To determine just how long the will require to reach Mars, us must very first know the distance between the two planets.

Mars is the fourth planet indigenous the sun, and also the 2nd closest to planet (Venus is the closest). Yet the distance between the two planets is constantly changing as lock travel approximately the sun.

In theory, the closest the Earth and also Mars would strategy each other would be once Mars is in ~ its closest point to the sunlight (perihelion) and Earth is at its farthest (aphelion). This would placed the planets just 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers) apart. However, this has actually never occurred in tape-recorded history. The closest recorded technique of the two planets developed in 2003, as soon as they were just 34.8 million miles (56 million km) apart.

The two planets farthest apart once they are both at their farthest indigenous the sun, top top opposite political parties of the star. In ~ this point, they deserve to be 250 million miles (401 million km) apart.

The mean distance between the two planets is 140 million miles (225 million km).

Related: What is the Temperature top top Mars?

The speed of light

Light travel at around 186,282 mile per second (299,792 kilometres per second). Therefore, a irradiate shining from the surface of Mars would take the adhering to amount the time come reach planet (or evil versa):

Closest feasible approach: 182 seconds, or 3.03 minutesClosest recorded approach: 187 seconds, or 3.11 minutesFarthest approach: 1,342 seconds, or 22.4 minutesOn average: 751 seconds, or just over 12.5 minutes

Fastest audioeditorfree.comcraft so far

The faster audioeditorfree.comcraft launched from planet was NASA"s new Horizons mission, which saw Pluto in 2015. In January 2006, the probe left earth at 36,000 mph (58,000 kph). If such a probe travel in a straight line to Mars, the moment it would take to get to Mars would be:

Closest feasible approach: 942 hours (39 days)Closest tape-recorded approach: 967 hrs (41 days)Farthest approach: 6,944 hours (289 days)On average: 3,888 hrs (162 days)

But then points get complicated …

Of course, the problem with the vault calculations is that they measure up distance between the two planets together a right line. Traveling with the the furthest passing the Earth and also Mars would certainly involve a trip straight through the sun, if audioeditorfree.comcraft should of necessity move in orbit roughly the solar system"s star.

Although this isn"t a difficulty for the closestly approach, once the planets are on the same side the the sun, another problem exists. The numbers additionally assume that the two planets remain at a constant distance; that is, once a probe is released from planet while the two planets at the the next approach, Mars would remain the very same distance away end the food of the 39 job it take it the probe come travel.

In reality, however, the planets are continuously relocating in your orbits about the sun. Designers must calculation the ideal orbits for sending out a audioeditorfree.comcraft from earth to Mars. Their numbers element in not only distance but additionally fuel efficiency. Like throwing a dart in ~ a moving target, they should calculate where the earth will be as soon as the audioeditorfree.comcraft arrives, not where it is when it leaves Earth. audioeditorfree.comships must also decelerate to get in orbit around a brand-new planet to protect against overshooting it.

How long it take away to reach Mars relies on wherein in your orbits the two planets lie as soon as a mission is launched. It also depends top top the technical developments of propulsion systems.

According come NASA Goddard Flight Center"s website, the ideal lineup for a launch come Mars would gain you come the planet in about nine months. The website price quotes physics professor Craig C. Patten, the the college of California, mountain Diego:

"It take away the planet one year come orbit the sun and it bring away Mars about 1.9 years (say 2 years for simple calculation) come orbit the sun. The elliptical orbit which carries you from earth to Mars is much longer than Earth"s orbit, but shorter than Mars" orbit. Accordingly, we can estimate the time it would take to complete this orbit through averaging the lengths of Earth"s orbit and Mars" orbit. Therefore, it would take around one and also a fifty percent years to finish the elliptical orbit.

"In the ripe months it takes to acquire to Mars, Mars move a considerable distance roughly in that orbit, around three-eighths of the method around the sun. You have actually to setup ahead come make certain that by the moment you with the distance of Mar"s orbit, that Mars is wherein you need it to be! Practically, this way that you can only start your trip as soon as Earth and also Mars are appropriately lined up. This just happens every 26 months. The is, over there is just one launch home window every 26 months."

The trip might be reduce by burning more fuel — a process not right with today"s technology, Patten said.

Evolving technology can assist to shorten the flight. NASA"s room Launch mechanism (SLS) will certainly be the brand-new workhorse for transporting upcoming missions, and also potentially humans, to the red planet. SLS is at this time being constructed and also tested, through its an initial flight planned because that 2019.

Robotic audioeditorfree.comcraft might one day make the pilgrimage in just three days. Photon propulsion would count on a powerful laser to advice audioeditorfree.comcraft to velocities approaching the speed of light. Philip Lubin, a physics professor in ~ the university of California, Santa Barbara, and his team are working top top the Directed energy Propulsion for Intersteller exploration (DEEP-IN). The method could propel a 220-lb. (100 kilogram) robotic audioeditorfree.comcraft to Mars in just three days, the said.

"There room recent breakthroughs which take it this from scientific research fiction to scientific research reality," Lubin stated at the 2015 NASA Innovative progressed Concepts (NIAC) fall symposium. "There"s no known reason why we cannot do this."

How long did that take?

Here is a list of just how long it take it several historical missions to with the red planet. Your launch dates are contained for perspective.

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Mariner 6 (1969 flyby): 155 daysMariner 7 (1969 flyby): 128 daysMars Pathfinder (1996): 212 daysMars express Orbiter (2003): 201 daysMars reconnaissance Orbiter (2005): 210 days

Additional resources

Editor"s note: This article was update to exactly the date of Mariner 4"s flyby.

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Nola Taylor Redd is a contributing writer because that She loves every things an are and astronomy-related, and also enjoys the possibility to discover more. She has actually a Bachelor’s degree in English and Astrophysics from Agnes Scott college and also served together an intern at sky & Telescope magazine. In her complimentary time, she homeschools her 4 children. Follow she on Twitter in ~