How Long Would a Round-Trip to Mars Take?
Ashley: No matter how you plan your round-trip to Mars, it's going to be a long journey.
If you could drive a car at normal highway speed, while following a similar path as recent robotic Mars missions, it would take you more than five-hundred years to get there (Animation of car leaving the Earth). That’s not even including bathroom breaks!
Using the type of chemical rocket propulsion we have today, your trip there could still take about six months (Animation of rocket launching into space). That timeline assumes the planets are lined-up just right for your trajectory, which only happens about every two years. When you get there, Mars won't be in the same place relative to Earth as when you left (Animation showing the movement of the Earth relative to the Martian orbit) [sound: ding], so it could be a while before you get a decent opportunity to come back (Video of an astronaut sitting, reading a paper, waiting for his return flight at the "Mars Interplanetary Spaceport". The flight schedule reads "Destination: Earth, Flight: 5721, Status: Delayed, Notes: 13,140 HRS". Astronaut appears frustrated). That's why one possible scenario for a human mission to Mars has astronauts explore the surface of the planet for about a year-and-a-half while the planets realign (Animation of astronauts working on the surface of Mars). That way they can take that three-month express trip home (Animation of rocket launching from Mars).
To learn more about Mars, visit NASA.gov