August 19, 2012
JPL Curiosity Workers Living On Mars Time

Jet Propulsion Lab workers who are controlling the Curiosity vehicle on Mars take turns living 3 month periods on the (longer) Mars daily period. The result: a feeling of jet lag.

To stay in lockstep, nearly 800 people on the $2.5 billion project have surrendered to the Martian cycle of light and dark. In the simplest sense, each day slides forward 40 minutes. That results in wacky work, sleep and eating schedules. Many say it feels like perpetual jet lag.

Among the many technological advances we need to be able to colonize Mars: genetic engineering of our sleep cycles to enable us to function well on a daily cycle that is about 40 minutes longer than Earth's 24 hour planetary rotation.

We need a wide assortment of biotechnological advances for Mars living. Some of the biotechnologies we'll need:

  • Plants bioengineered to make a wide variety of drugs.
  • Our bodies genetically altered to function well in lower gravity and with a longer day.
  • Plants bioengineered to make a variety of textiles. Think cotton plants that make something more like cloth. Also, we'll need wood for structures and plastics as well. Silk-making plants would be very useful on Mars.
  • Vats and genetically engineered mammalian cells to create leather and fur.
  • Plants bioengineered to recycle sewage and other wastes.

The underlying thread for most these biotechnologies: they reduce the number of fields of expertise that the members of a Mars colony would need to master. No need to know how to carry out steps of many drug syntheses if those steps can be genetically engineered into plants or perhaps a yeast strain. Since the initial Mars colony will be very small it will not have a large staff of engineers and equipment needed to make many kinds of material. So organisms genetically engineered to create an assortment of drugs, textiles, and construction materials would be great due to their eliminating the need for many fields of specialty in the initial colony.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 August 19 10:38 PM  Space Colonization

PacRim Jim said at August 19, 2012 11:14 PM:

Strong AI-based, self-reconfiguring robots.
Problem solved.

Ronald Brak said at August 20, 2012 2:49 AM:

No need for genetic engineering to adjust sleep wake cycles to mars. Humans just arent' that fine tuned. We don't have genes that say, "Follow a 24 hour cycle," we have genes that say, "Dude, there's gonna be like this cycle, get used to it." If people don't have cues, say they're down a mine without regular contact with the world and no clocks, their circadian rhythms fall out of a 24 hour cycle, generally getting longer. Which is handy for going to mars as the day is slightly longer there. Also handy for on earth because hours of daylight aren't constant away from the equator.

Russ said at August 20, 2012 7:26 AM:

Would somebody block this troll?

Meanwhile, on the actual topic -- I have a very long circadian rhythm, and wonder if a longer day might not work well for me. Very much NOT one of those "grab some orange juice and smile in the morning" types.

Paul R said at August 20, 2012 7:42 AM:

The reason for the feeling of jet lag is the mismatch between Earth and Mars day lengths. People could live on Mars right now and have no problem with the circadian rhythm. Genetic engineering is not needed or desired.

Lyle said at August 20, 2012 8:24 AM:

I had a work-from-home job from 2005-2011 that didn't have structured hours and so I let my sleep schedule go free-form.

I ended up with an ~28 hour day that cycled ~once a week.

I've since had to structure my hours (my wife and I had a child last year) to facilitate my child's schedule. But, I felt much better when I allowed myself to go to sleep when I was tired and wake up when I was well rested.

Ronald Brak said at August 20, 2012 3:04 PM:

Lyle, maybe you would denefit from a third of a miligram of melatonin 20 minutes before bed. It doesn't help most people, but it's probably worth a try since it can be got for next to nothing in or from the United States. Just be warned that the US pills only seem to come in dangerously large sizes and you'll probably have to break the tablets to get the right dose. And of course research this yourself because I could be sitting here wearing clown makeup and actively trying to kill you.

Russ said at August 21, 2012 7:25 AM:


That's sort of what I was thinking. I constantly find myself wishing for just a bit "extra" and a day cycle that was 40 minutes longer sounds like pure heaven to me.

Engineer-Poet said at August 21, 2012 7:50 AM:

This is nothing new; the operators of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers also lived on Mars time.  I understand that drone operators in theaters like Afghanistan are sited on bases in the USA and work upside-down schedules too.

Phillep Harding said at August 21, 2012 2:32 PM:

They should be able to adapt, if they are isolated from the outside world. Such contact will prevent them from adapting fully. Not that it's easy. In fact, they are likely to be miserable while adapting.

(EP, having been on exactly that sort of sched, there should be a bounty solicitors who ignore signs telling them to go away.)

Brian said at October 17, 2012 8:16 PM:

Good I get to sleep 40mins more on Mars.... So what's the problem again?

Martin J Sallberg said at February 11, 2013 11:11 PM:

Interesting new research shows that organisms are not hardwired for fixed ways of working at all, but can actually change themselves naturally. For most organisms, ignorant cautiousness and its pressure to react fast are the primary obstacles, but in modern human society justification is the main problem. There is evidence from metastudies that tolerant social environments creates extreme recoveries after brain damage that reductionist neurology and psychology cannot explain (Kurt Ficher, Christina Hinton et al.: Mind, Brain and Education). This is linked to the fact that justification paralyzes self-correction (the same fact that have misled most psychologists to dismiss free will as an illusion). This self-correction without justification can be used to keep peace and avoid boredom during long spaceflight, solve problems with weightlessness, cosmic radiation, diseases, ageing, as well as adapting to weird alien environments upon arrival. This is explained more in the articles "Brain" and "Moderating the free will debate" on topic page "Psychology", the articles "Self-organization" and "Inheritance of acquired characteristics" on topic page "Evolution" and on topic page "Advice of ways to stop justifying" on Pure science Wiki. Please feel free to read and contribute to Pure science Wiki, the link there is

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