During the camping season – when school is out and days are longer – it’s easy for families to spend quality time together. But how about in the off-season, when days are shorter, the air chillier, and the pace more hectic?
Incentive to reserve time together may come from an unlikely source: the cold, distant planet Mars. Hear us out!
In a recent TED talk, a spacecraft missions engineer for NASA’s Martian rovers, who guides them remotely from a lab in Los Angeles, discusses the logistics of living and working on “Martian Standard Time” while simultaneously existing on Earth. The Martian day is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth. This means that the people “working” on this distant planet need to report to work on Earth at the same time every day on Mars. One day that might be 8 am; the next day, 8:40; the day after that, 9:20. It is, says the speaker, “like moving a time zone every day.” Eventually, the dawn of the Martian day will coincide with the middle of the Earth’s night – and the crew will need to report to work at a truly ungodly hour. This forces family life to adjust: foil on the windows, black-out shades, quiet time in the mid-afternoon so Mom or Dad can nap.
The speaker, Nagin Cox, then shared a picture of a NASA director at a beach in Los Angeles with his family at 1 in the morning. Over the school vacation, his entire family had shifted to Mars time. “They had these great adventures,” Cox says, “like going bowling in the middle of the night.” Likewise, once the Mars workday was over, roving packs of NASA-employed “Martians” will cruise the traffic-less freeways to have dinner, or breakfast, at all-night diners.
Having camaraderie and company while living on another planet goes a long way toward countering the grueling physical demands, volatile schedules, and mental isolation of NASA’s Mars mission directors. It may take supreme feats of planning and dedication, but it can be done. And it’s a worthy reminder to really examine our default excuses of “not having enough time” to carve out minutes for the things that really matter—even in the camping off-season. After all, “not enough time” is all a matter of our (Earthly) perspective.