Jet Lagged: NASA engineer and his family are living on Mars time

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Even the tiniest change — from Daylight Savings Time to standard time — can throw your body off.

Imagine jumping into the time zone of an entirely different planet. That's what the family of David Oh, a NASA engineer, has been doing for weeks.

Oh, who is the flight director of the Mars Curiosity rover, and his family have shifted their life to fit the schedule of the rover on the Red Planet. That's a lot more complicated than it sounds, because the Martian day is close to three percent longer than Earth's. So everyday, Oh's family has to add about 40 minutes to the day, meaning the time of lunch or dinner or sleep can vary.

Oh and his wife, Bryn, spoke to All Things Considered's Melissa Block today. They spoke at about 10 a.m. Pacific Time and they are a point where Martian day is Earth's night. In other words, they spoke to Melissa at the point where their schedule is completely upside down. Right after the morning interview, they said, they were headed to bed.

What's amazing is that the parents of three — ages 8, 10 and 13 — were in great spirits.

"It's amazing how easy it is," Bryn said.

Oh said they wanted to do this because they wanted the whole family to share in the adventure of landing a rover on Mars.

"It gives them the feeling that they're part of the great adventure that we have in driving a rover across Mars," said Oh.

The family's oldest kid, Braden, has been keeping a blog about the experiment. And it feels truly magical: He documents a trip to Santa Monica Beach at 11 p.m. Earth time. He posts a picture of the family bowling at 4 a.m. And one of a golden sunrise just behind the Southern California mountains.

To Bryn there are two highlights of this experiment: Because of the time change, the kids saw their first shooting star and Ashlyn, the 10-year-old, learned to ride a two-wheel bike in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night.

As school starts and Mars time aligns with Earth time, again, the experiment will end for the kids. Oh has to stay on Mars time for his job.

"We'll lose the adventure of exploring Los Angeles at night," Bryn said about the experiment's end. "But we'll have great memories."

Much more of Melissa's conversation with Ohs is on this evening's All Things Considered. Click here to find your NPR member station. We'll post the as-broadcast version of this interview on this post a little later on tonight.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

 

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