How Old Are You on Mars?

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: 50 minutes

Materials: Minimal

Download the PDF version (528 KB)


Digital technologies have changed how people learn, work and live. Digital literacy is a critical skill and continues to become increasingly important for the future. Deep-space missions are relying more and more on artificial intelligence (AI) and programming to create autonomous robots that can make decisions on their own. Canada is building Canadarm3 for the Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the Moon. Canadarm3 will require programming that was not necessary in the previous Canadarms in order to complete tasks on a daily basis almost 400,000 km from Earth. Future missions to Mars will require even more autonomy and sophisticated programming. Coding is one way to use imagination and innovation to create something new. This introductory coding activity shows participants just how easy it can be to start on the path to becoming digitally savvy.

Mission description

As you probably know, a year is the period of time that Earth takes to complete an orbit around the Sun. Our nearest planetary neighbour, Mars, has a larger orbit around the Sun than Earth does. This difference in orbits is why a Martian year is much longer than an Earth year. In fact, in Martian years you're about half as old as you are in Earth years!

Scientists and engineers (among others) often use computers to process data or perform complicated or repetitive calculations for them. To do this, they are sometimes required to write code to describe the calculation they would like performed. In this challenge, you will create a small program that takes your age in Earth years and outputs your age in Martian years. You will use JavaScript, a programming language used everywhere online. It's accessible if you have a Web browser and easy to understand.

You will start by doing the calculation by hand, so that you understand the math behind the conversion, and to give you an appreciation of the benefits of coding.


Breakdown Duration
Background 5 minutes
Instructions 15 minutes
Group activity 25 minutes
Wrap-up 5 minutes
Total 50 minutes


Participants will learn about simple coding.


By the end of this mission, participants will:

Mission preparation



Download the participant handout (PDF, 388 KB)

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