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Flight to Mars: How Long? Along what Path?
This site demonstrates how, with the use of orbital mechanics, a space mission to Mars can be planned. Using no more than algebra, Kepler's laws and the formula for the energy of an object in a Kepler orbit, it derives the time for an optimal flight to Mars, the timing of the flight, the thrust needed to enter the orbit and to leave it upon arrival, and details of the flight back to Earth, including the delay before the relative positions of Earth and Mars are appropriate.
Intended for grade levels:
  • High (9-12)
  • College (13-14)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Problem set
  • Text:
    • Ref. material
  • Physics
  • Space science
Technical requirements:
No specific technical requirements, just a browser required
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
May be used non-commercially as long as credit is given to the author.
DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-005-178
Educational standards:
  • National Science Education Standards (NSES):
    • 9-12:
      • Unifying concepts and processes:
        • Change, constancy, and measurement
        • Evidence, models, and explanation
        • Systems, order, and organization
      • A - Science as inquiry:
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understandings about scientific inquiry
      • B - Physical science:
        • Interactions of energy and matter
        • Motions and forces
      • G - History and nature of science:
        • Nature of scientific knowledge
        • Science as a human endeavor
Related resources:
This resource is part of 'From Stargazers to Starships'
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Author: Dr David P. Stern
Goddard Space Flight Center