If we assume that we could soon launch a manned mission to the planet Mars from Earth, the shortest route would be open in a time window of about two years; Earth and Mars are particularly close to each other about every two years. Since both Earth and Mars move on elliptical orbits, Mars is not always at the same distance from Earth. The distance to Mars therefore varies between 56 and 401 million km. This is why ESA and NASA always launch their Mars missions when Earth and Mars are closest to each other.
How long do the missions to Mars take?
The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity needed just under seven months for the route in 2003 – just like the ESA Mars Express Mars probe. The polar lander Phoenix, which was launched in 2007, took almost ten months. With a manned spacecraft, the flight time to Mars would be between 15 and 16 months or 450 to 490 days.
Flight back to Earth from Mars
Should a manned flight to Mars take place, the question naturally arises: When can you return?
As in the case of a flight to Mars, on the return flight one would have to wait until the distance between Mars and Earth is the smallest to return to Earth. A stay on Mars or in an orbit around Mars would therefore have to be planned for about 16 months. The total journey would therefore last about 1000 days.