Skip to main content

Life on Mars Time: Like Traveling Three Time Zones Every Two Days

In a small corner of the world (Tucson, Arizona), a team of scientists on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Mission lives on Mars time. Life has certainly been unusual since the spacecraft landed two months ago. When the Mars Lander shuts down during the Martian night, mission controllers are awake analyzing data; with a typical workday ending sometime around 3 or 4am on Earth, at the dawn of the Martian day when the Lander wakes up.

As one can imagine, this schedule can eventually take its toll on the body, especially considering the fact that corresponding orbital motions of Mars and the Earth mean that start of the Martian day is always changing with respect to Earth time, in addition to the Martian day being 40 minutes longer than Earth's. Whew!

That's why 18 Phoenix team members living the Martian life are being monitored by a group of physiologists, who will study changes in the body that might develop from such an out-of-whack schedule. The results could help ease the fatigue of future astronauts on Mars missions.

They also provide helpful adjustment tools, like the blue LED light box scientist Morten Bo Madsen (pictured) sits next to as he works on the Lander's robotic arm camera. Previous research has shown that bright light, particularly short-wavelength or blue light can perk sleepyheads up as good as any jolt of coffee.

But the end of this bizarre yet intriguing ( and personally I think it sounds fun) way of life is near- Phoenix's main mission terminates in August.


Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know: "What's going on in this video ? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream. (We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux ) Image Credit: St0rmz via Flickr Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?