We all get used to the rhythms of the day: up at the same time each morning, lunch at midday, home in the evening. But when you're living by the time on another planet, the day takes on a whole different rhythm.
It's a rhythm experienced for weeks or months by the scientists and engineers who operate spacecraft on Mars. Since the craft are powered by the Sun, they do most of their work during the daylight hours. But those hours are a little different from those on Earth. Michael Hecht, a scientist with the Phoenix lander, explains:
HECHT: A Mars day has an extra almost 40 minutes compared to an Earth day. So every day, we start our day, our Sol, which is what we call a day on Mars, 40 minutes later than the last. Some people love it. I think of it as getting an extra 40 minutes of sleep every night -- I haven't set my alarm since we started the mission. I think it becomes very difficult if you are trying to juggle other things in your life that require you to be functional in the daytime. [:29]
Team members used Mars time from the time Phoenix landed in May until the middle of August. They worked in offices with blacked-out windows to block any visual cues as to the time of day. And some were part of an experiment that flooded their work areas with blue light to help reset their biological clocks. The experiment also studied how the team members adapted to Mars time. The results may help shape future Mars missions -- including ones where people really do live on Mars time -- on the planet itself.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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