Interplanetary Time Shift: Since Mars rover Curiosity touched down on the rust-colored dirt of Gale Crater on Aug. 5 (PDT), a dedicated team of rover drivers and mission scientists have been shifting their sleeping pattern to keep in sync with the intrepid robot.
A Mars day is exactly 24 hours 37 minutes and 22.663 seconds long, meaning the team had to advance their working day by about 40 minutes each and every day. Over the course of a week, they will have time shifted by several hours — this meant that many team members had to work through the night. But this week, they can look forward to getting back to more familiar working hours.
“People are glad to be going off Mars time,” said Richard Cook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project. “The team has been successful in getting the duration of the daily planning process from more than 16 hours, during the initial weeks after landing, down to 12 hours. We’ve been getting better at operations.”