MARTIAN SUNSET: NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars. Image: Flickr/NASA Solar System Exploration

Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars?

On the eve of science writer Katie Worth’s experiment to live on Mars time and blog about how it feels, she explains how living between time zones across the universe can prove disastrous without guidance from sleep scientists

By Katie Worth

“Mutinous” is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers.

But that’s precisely the term employed by Harvard University sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission’s rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time.

“They didn’t really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted,” he says, drily adding the obvious: “NASA wasn’t too happy with that notion.”

The Mars day, called a sol, is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than an Earth day. Every time NASA lands a robot on the Red Planet, its operations team must adapt to that long Martian day for the first period of roving, to take full advantage of the hours between the data transmission at the end of the rover’s day and the upload of new commands the following Mars morning.

Read more: Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars?: Scientific American.

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