Hello, friends! Welcome to Our Place in Space: A to Z! For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’ll be taking you on a partly imaginative and highly optimistic tour of humanity’s future in outer space. If you don’t know what the A to Z Challenge is, click here to learn more. In today’s post, Y is for…
Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in your day? Like you just cannot get everything you need to do in a day done in a day? Do you wish your day could be just a little bit longer? If so, moving to Mars might be a good solution for you! A day on Mars is nearly 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth! Scientists call this slightly longer Martian day a “sol,” and several cute and clever new words have been introduced related to Martian timekeeping: words like yestersol, tosol, and solorrow.
As of yet, there are no humans on Mars (citation needed), but there are humans here on Earth who have to live and work and plan their whole schedules according to Mars time. You see, the Mars rovers can only operate during Martian daylight hours. Therefore, everyone back at mission control for those rovers needs to be awake, alert, at their desks and ready to go when it’s daytime on Mars (regardless of what time it is here on Earth).
Sometimes the discrepancy between a Martian sol and an Earthly day isn’t so bad. Sometimes, when it’s daytime at Jezero Crater (current location of the Perseverance rover), it’s also daytime in southern California (where Perseverance mission control is headquartered). But day after day, sol after sol, that forty minute difference adds up. At some point, high noon at Jezero crater will be the middle of the night in southern California.
It’s important that the same crew of people always works with the same rover. Therefore, NASA has had special clocks and watches made to help people keep track of what time it is on Mars. NASA scientists and engineers associated with various Mars missions set their work schedules, meal schedules, and sleep schedules according to Mars time. As a result, there is a small community of “Martians” here on Earth, living their lives about forty minutes out of sync from the rest of us. And quite naturally, certain colloquial terms have developed within this little community of Mars researchers.
Yestersol refers to the sol before the current sol. Tosol is the current sol. And solorrow is the next sol, after the current sol. Making a clear distinction between “yesterday” and “yestersol” is especially important for people who live on Earth and still have to deal with many Earthly concerns, but who also, in a very real way, need to think and act as if they’re living on Mars.
I like to think of the whole “yestersol, tosol, solorrow” phenomenon as a little preview of the future. It’s one thing to think about big picture futuristic stuff, like space elevators and planetary protection laws; but it’s little bits of culture and daily life (sorry, sol-ly life) that help make the future feel like a real place.
Want to Learn More?
NASA spacecraft engineer Nagin Cox gave a really neat TED Talk about what it’s like living on Mars time. Click here to watch it.