Ask Jimmy and the Bug
art by Dean Stanton, text by Ellen Braaf
Brendan R. from Illinois wants to know: “How long does it take to get to Mars?”
It depends on when you go. Earth and Mars zip around the Sun like cars on a funky racetrack. They travel at different speeds and in different-shaped “lanes,” or orbits—with slower Mars on the outside and faster Earth on the inside. The distance between them keeps changing. They can be as close as 34.65 million miles or as far apart as 243 million miles.
- Why are Earth and Mars closer to each other at certain times and farther away at other times?
- How close can Earth and Mars be to each other? How far away? What is the difference in miles between the closest and farthest distances?
- It takes about seven months for a spacecraft to reach Mars from Earth when the two planets are as close together as they can be. Approximately how long would it take a spacecraft to reach Mars from Earth when the two planets are as far away from each other as they can be? Explain how you figured out your answer.