NORFOLK, Va. — This week marks 50 years since the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. From take-off to touchdown on the lunar surface, it took the astronauts three days from July 16 to July 20.
Since the moon is our closest celestial body (it is OUR moon, after all), it only makes sense that it would be the fastest trip.
It took over an additional three months to get close to the closest planets. Mariner 2 traveled to Venus in 110 days while it took Mariner 10 nearly 5 months to approach Mercury.
Multiple vehicles traveled to or near to Mars, with the trips anywhere between 150 to 300 days in length. The Curiosity Rover navigated to the red planet in just over 250 days. Doubling that time gets close to how long it takes to come close to our largest planet, Jupiter.
Probably the most easily identifiable planet, Saturn, takes anywhere between 2 and 6 years. Cassini's journey began in 1997 and it sailed toward the sixth planet in the solar system until 2004. The spacecraft spent 20 years in space before diving into the planet's atmosphere and burning up like a meteor. Job well done, Cassini!
The Voyager missions took nearly a decade or more to reach the two farthest planets in our solar system. These were launched in the 1970s and are still flying out in the universe somewhere.
New Horizons trip
Pluto, while not a planet (forever in my heart, at least), is a nearly 10 year trip with the New Horizons spacecraft.
These differences in time are due to the different speeds of the spacecrafts and the flight paths they have to take. The planets are all constantly orbiting around the sun so reaching them isn't a straight shot from Earth.
Some missions required using the orbits of other planets or moons as somewhat of a slingshot to reach the intended celestial body.