A Martian day, called a Sol, is about 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than a 24-hour Earth day. This is because Mars has a slower rotation than Earth does. For the engineers, scientists, drivers and planners working on Curiosity, this means they must start work on Earth 40 minutes later than the day before in order to coordinate with the rover’s work schedule on Mars.
The Associated Press‘ Alicia Chang recently peeked into the life of Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Mission, David Oh, as he shifts to “Mars time.”
Oh’s wife, Bryn, and his three children are also along for the ride — as well as 800 other operators who are part of the space agency’s most ambitious project on Mars yet.
Chang provides a snapshot of the Oh family’s new Martian schedule, which is likened to “perpetual jet lag”:
Days before Curiosity’s Aug. 5 touchdown, the children stayed up until 11:30 p.m. and slept in until 10 a.m. In the beginning, it wasn’t much different from a typical day on summer vacation. As the days wore on, they stayed up later and later, waking up in the afternoon and evening.
One day last week, the family ate a 3 p.m. breakfast, 8 p.m. lunch, 2:30 a.m. dinner and 5 a.m. dessert before heading off to bed.
Fortunately, the change will only last for the first 90 days of the mission. Still, Bryn Oh tells Chang that the family, who lives close NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has taken advantage of her husband’s unusual work hours by going on night hikes, attending midnight movie screenings, and visiting 24-hour diners.
You can read more about the family’s exploits and see pictures on their blog, Mars Timr.
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