Humans have always wanted to go to Mars, even if there aren’t any real aliens there. The problem is, it takes a really long time to fly to Mars. The red planet is always at least 60 million miles away from Earth. At the speed of today’s spaceships, that trip would take 18 months. Worse yet, once that ship lands, it has no way to take off and fly back home to Earth! So any astronauts on board would be stuck on Mars forever. But that could all change with a new engine being built in Russia, which might be ready to try in 2018. The new nuclear-power-fueled engine will be so strong that a spaceship could fly to Mars in just 6 weeks! And there’s even better news: Right now we just shoot rockets into the sky, and hope we did the math right to aim them at their landing spot. But the Rosatom rocket could change direction during the trip if needed. Who knows — the astronauts might just change their minds and fly to Jupiter instead.
Wee ones: If you wanted to visit your Martian friend 7 weeks from now, would the 6-week rocket get you there in time?
Little kids: If you’ve been flying for 4 weeks on the super-fast rocket, in how many weeks will you reach Mars? Bonus: If while flying to Mars you count off the miles in tens of millions, what numbers do you say to get to 60 million?
Big kids: If you left now on an 18-month trip to Mars, how many years greater will your age be when you land? Bonus: If a Mars trip takes just 6 weeks, how much sooner do you arrive compared to 18 months? (Hint if needed: Every 3-month chunk has 13 weeks.)
Wee ones: Yes! 6 weeks is shorter than 7.
Little kids: In 2 weeks. Bonus: 10 million, then 20 million, 30 million, 40 million, 50 million, and finally 60 million miles.
Big kids: Different for everyone…if you will have a birthday within the next 6 months, you’ll be 2 years older than your current age. Otherwise, you’ll be just 1 year older. Bonus: 18 months has 6 sets of 13 weeks, so it’s exactly 12 sets of 6 longer, or 72 weeks.
And thank you John O. for this great news story!