Whenever a Mars mission starts, a whole bunch of NASA staff get the fun added task of completing their duties while living on rover time. That is, they’re up when the sun is up on the Rover, and they’re down when it’s down. In addition, they get to experience the slightly longer Martian day. This can understandably be difficult for folks with families and pretty much any other commitments. Martian days last about forty minutes longer than Earth ones, so it’s sort of like acclimating to a new time zone one hour over… every day, eventually working your way entirely around the clock and back.
But one NASA family, that of David and Bryn Oh, and their three kids Braden, Ashlyn, and Devyn, have tackled the problem of losing their dad to Martian adventure all summer in a fun way: they’re all living on Martian time.
Days before Curiosity’s Aug. 5 touchdown, the children stayed up until 11:30 p.m. and slept in until 10 a.m. In the beginning, it wasn’t much different from a typical day on summer vacation. As the days wore on, they stayed up later and later, waking up in the afternoon and evening.
One day last week, the family ate a 3 p.m. breakfast, 8 p.m. lunch, 2:30 a.m. dinner and 5 a.m. dessert before heading off to bed…
Being night owls has its perks: Braden, Ashlyn and Devyn saw their first shooting star. The family went on night hikes in the hills around the neighborhood. They had a late dinner in Hollywood and gawked at street performers on the Walk of Fame with other tourists. They saw a midnight screening of a zombie film and then went bowling.
One night, Bryn Oh took the children biking in an empty parking lot. The youngest shed his training wheels, and for the first time, pedaled around.
What I like about this the most, I think, is that it’s a super interesting science based vacation or adventure… that doesn’t really require a big trip or downpayment, and that allows kids and adults to re-experience the place they already inhabit, their neighborhood, town, or state in a completely different way. Certainly, it would require time off from work, thought… if your job isn’t NASA Flight Director.
Everybody in the family said they generally felt a bit sluggish, basically perpetual jetlag. But naps are frequent, adventures were being had (even a landing party for non-Martian time friends complete with a cake shaped like the Gale Crater), and everybody’s health was being monitored. The kids even maintained dentist appointments, harp lessons, and play dates… all painstakingly scheduled around their rotating day.
Later this month most of the family will get back on an Earthling sleep schedule when school starts, but I’m guessing that nobody will forget their Martian staycation anytime soon.