In the 1960's the first few Mars mission designs were proposed, and, at first, some of the less complicated robotics-based projects were put into action. It was around this time of early Mars exploration and mission planning that project designers realized that we, as humans, would have to adapt to the Martian clock and calendar during these missions; we would not be able to force Mars to work within Earth time periods. In the years that followed, a fairly common way of dealing with this predicament came into being as numerous suggestions were made to solve the problem. Although it might not seem like a major dilemma to a casual onlooker, it is imperative that this time-keeping complication is completely solved in time for the first manned mission to Mars. It is an issue that will not only concern the entire first mission, but will affect all future manned Martian landings.
The biggest problem we have with Martian time-keeping is that earthlings are naturally built for the 24 hour day, 365 day year of Earth; this schedule is so deeply and evolutionarily ground into our being that it is difficult to adapt to Mars' way of time. Our seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years are only earth-bound conventions, for Earth is the only place that they are logistically functional. Stemming from this, on a manned Martian mission, it would be extremely troublesome to coordinate the earth-bound mission members and the mars-bound astronauts because of the difference in time keeping schedules. Furthermore, once a method for time-keeping is established, crafting time pieces for all mission members will continue to be a difficult and bothersome task (USA.gov, 2004).
The primary cause for our Martian time-keeping concerns lies in Mars' orbital and rotational periods as compared to Earth's. For example, an easily solved yet pertinent problem is that Mars' rotational period (the Martian “day,” or sol) is about 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds longer than the standard 24 hour earth day (Schmunk & Allison, 2012). Additionally, the Martian orbital period (the Martian year, or span) is a total of about 668.59 sols which, when combined with the 25.2 degree tilt of Mars, will create a predicament that will be unlike anything most humans will ever experience (Allison, 1998). All of these conditions combined could easily be mentally and physically degrading for all mission members if plans were not put into place to handle these issues.
Among these plans, some solutions have already been implemented, and are widely used and accepted today. For example, the solution to the almost 40 minute longer day is to simply stretch out Earth seconds, minutes, hours, and days to fit the length of one sol. This practice, which was first implemented by the Viking Lander team, continues to be the generally accepted answer to this problem, and is used in all present missions and design proposals (Schmunk & Allison, 2012). Another example would be the use of the term “sol” to...